At Texas Law, students change the world through real-life learning opportunities. Recently, 3L Alyse Munrose – working through the Law School’s Children’s Rights Clinic and under the supervision of Lori Duke ’95 – successfully represented her clients in a five-day trial.
The trial culminated nearly a year of working on behalf of siblings who had been in long-term foster care and were seeking termination of parental rights so they could move forward in the adoption process. For the trial, Munrose prepared witnesses for their testimony, provided ideas on strategy, presented an opening statement, and examined witnesses. At one point after an unfavorable ruling from the judge regarding admissible evidence, she drafted a motion and a brief in only four hours to ask for reconsideration. Following an amendment by Duke, the motion was granted. The ruling allowed crucial evidence to come forward, which was essential to the winning result.
The case provided Munrose with an authentic experience that will benefit her as she prepares to graduate from Texas Law and begin her legal career.
“I gained the valuable lesson that great lawyering happens outside of the courtroom,” Munrose said. “I spent about a year understanding the story that was my clients’ lives. This required a lot of time building a relationship, listening, and showing them that they could trust us. Learning the mechanics of trial procedures and the rules of evidence was important, but we could not have told their story without understanding how they saw their lives. The law, while obviously very important, eventually finds its way!”
Duke, who is Co-Director of the Children’s Rights Clinic, praised Munrose’s work on the case. “Alyse was amazing; her work and advocacy were crucial to the case,” she said. “I know how hard she worked leading up to the trial – including interviewing and preparing witnesses over the course of months – but the trial itself was another matter that involved long, stressful days. Despite several challenges that arose and the emotional aspect of the case, she remained focused and professional. If we had not won, our clients would have been returned to a home that was unsafe and abusive.”
Munrose had initially met Duke, as well as Texas Law Clinical Professor Leslie Strauch, when she was an undergraduate student at UT majoring in social work and she did her field placement in the Children’s Rights Clinic as a social work intern. They remained as colleagues and friends during the two years Munrose worked at Child Protective Services before returning to the Forty Acres for law school.
“My experience with these two women (Duke and Strauch) is a true testament to the clinical program, the quality of faculty at Texas Law, and the relationships they build,” said Munrose.
The Texas Law Children’s Rights Clinic pairs current law students with representing clients in actual cases. Although the supervising attorneys sign pleadings drafted by the students and accompany the students to formal proceedings, the student attorneys sit “first chair” at hearings, depositions, mediations, and trial appearances, and they research and prepare cases as the primary attorneys. The Children’s Rights Clinic is one of 16 clinics and many experiential learning opportunities available to Texas Law students.