Courtrooms can be known to evoke many types of reactions and emotions but loud applause from an impartial crowd is not usually one of those. However for C|M|LAW student Linda Herman, that very situation transpired during her very first court case.
Herman’s case came via the C|M|LAW Community Health Advocacy Law Clinic, which offers students the opportunity to provide representation to real clients under the supervision of clinical facility. Herman was representing a client who was hoping to have her record expunged. The passionate argument Herman made for her client is what led to the outburst from the crowd and a favorable ruling from the judge.
“Linda spoke so eloquently and passionately about her client that spontaneous, loud applause erupted in the crowded courtroom,” explained Pamela Daiker-Middaugh, C|M|LAW Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Pro Bono Program. “In 20+ years of teaching and practicing, I don't think I have ever witnessed a moment so heart-warming.”
“My client was a young woman who made some mistakes in the past which were really hindering her ability to move on,” said Herman. “Convincing the court she should have a second chance was a combination of having a great client and a judge who was willing to listen. It was a wonderful experience and a great way to start ones legal career. I’ll never forget it.”
This first case was a perfect fit for Herman because it allowed her to do exactly what she intended when she decided to go to law school – help those who could use a break. She recalls a story prior to law school that helped motivate her to become a lawyer.
“I met someone who was being poorly treated because of his ethnicity,” recalled Herman. “Things that would be very easy for somebody who grew up in this country were just impossible for him to deal with. I tried to help him out by telling him how to contact the court and what he should do for a simple traffic matter but he ran across obstacles and resistance at every juncture. I said ‘this isn’t right,’ and I could do something for him that would be very simple for me but very significant him. Helping him was a very good feeling and I would like to do that for the rest of my life.”
While attending Cleveland-Marshall, Herman became involved with several other programs that have allowed her to influence and help others. She volunteers with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, which provides free legal assistance to low income clients in Northeast Ohio. Herman also participates in the statewide Law and Leadership Institute, a pipeline initiative that identifies promising students from underserved urban population who may have an interest in studying law and provides them the opportunity to study in Ohio's law schools during the summers.
“I didn’t know exactly what to expect but it’s definitely been one of the most meaningful things I’ve done,” explained Herman about the Law and Leadership program. “Going through that experience and then getting an e-mail from a student saying they’ve just been accepted to college is great, and I look forward to hearing about them getting accepted to law school one day.”
Herman’s passion for helping others has led her to the health care concentration at Cleveland-Marshall because she sees health care as something that impacts everyone. She hopes to work in compliance or regulation in the health care field after graduating in December.
Prior to law school, the California native had years of experience working in the law, as a paralegal and administrative professional at several law firms. It was when she moved to Ohio that the possibility of law school became a reality.
Even with those years of experience in a legal profession, Herman was still worried about how her background as an art major would translate to law school. What she has found is that her diverse background may actually provide an advantage.
“I thought I would be unique in law school, coming in with an art background,” explained Herman. “I imaged everyone had business, engineering or finance degrees but it turns out there are a number of creative people here. I think it can give us a little bit of an edge, looking at things from a completely different perspective.”
Another potential challenge for Herman, a mother of three, was attending law school while raising a family. However, she found that her family could not be more supportive of her studies, and starting last fall that support carried over to her daily commute when her oldest daughter enrolled at Cleveland State University for undergraduate studies.