The Law-Medicine Center
The Law-Medicine Center

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

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Housing Advocates Inc.

Jeff Masor

Housing Advocates, Inc. is public interest and focuses on fair-housing law and discrimination cases, but each attorney also has his/her own private practice ranging from divorce to criminal defense. The fair housing and discrimination cases dealt with topics such as: breach of contract, FDCPA, promissory estoppel, wrongful eviction, predatory loans, covenant of quiet enjoyment, foreclosures, mootness, hearsay, and discrimination.

I was required to work ten weeks from roughly 10am to 5pm Monday through Friday. The hours varied based on what the workload was at the time. One day, I worked until 1am, alongside the other staff, to finish a brief. Other days, I was able to leave before 5pm. I also did some work from home. In addition, the Housing Advocates, Inc. is closely associated with Cleveland Marshall College of Law’s Fair Housing Law Clinic. I worked with four internship students, one was part-time and three were full time, and around six part-time clinic students. The clinic students received two to three credit hours depending on how many hours they worked at the Housing Advocates, Inc.

While interning at the Housing Advocates, Inc., interns were required to audit the associated Fair Housing Clinic course from Cleveland Marshall College of Law. The class met once a week for two hours. The course consisted of discussion of about five cases per class and periodic professional responsibility homework problems. Ed Kramer, lead counsel for the Housing Advocates, Inc., and Marilyn Tobocman, who works for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, taught the fair housing portion of the course. A Cleveland Marshall College of Law professor, Stephen Lazarus, taught the professional
responsibility portion of the course. There were seven classes, but two of which were a negotiation and a moot court argument by the clinic students, so the interns were not required to attend. Each clinic student was required to write a brief for one case, which the interns received a copy.

It is highly recommended by the Housing Advocates, Inc. staff that each intern bring his/her own laptop to work on assignments. While there are a few computers available to work on, they are largely old and slow. There is wireless internet in the building, and the Housing Advocates, Inc. staff provide the password to log onto their wireless network.

Generally, my job was to assist the attorneys on anything that needed to be done. I worked directly for two attorneys, Mary Jo Hanson and Ed Kramer. At first, I was assigned to Ms. Hanson and was given relatively simple assignments like writing letters to clients or lawyers and writing motions and poverty affidavits. For these assignments, I was usually given an example, and I had to work from that to create a document that was relevant for that case. At the same time, I was shown how to file motions and other documents with the clerk of courts at numerous courts including the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Also, I was shown how to walk through a motion with a judgment order to the judge’s bailiff.

In addition, I took intakes from prospective clients. Intakes consisted of first receiving a note from the secretary with a name, number, and brief explanation of the legal issue. Interns then called the potential client back and to get more information during a telephone interview. Interns then provided a summary to a supervising attorney, who asked further questions and came to a decision whether to take the case. Furthermore, while at the Housing Advocates, Inc., I did research for cases to assist Ms. Hanson. Research often consisted of looking up relevant laws for cases. Also, I would look up relevant cases and give Ms. Hanson a case citation and a short summary. After a couple weeks, Ms. Hanson gave me more responsibility by assigning more difficult assignments, such as writing pleadings.

About half-way through the internship, I was approached by Mr. Kramer to write a memorandum in opposition to a motion to dismiss for a fair housing law case. He was pleased with the result and began assigning me additional assignments. I wrote a SurReply brief (an additional memorandum in response to a memorandum from the
opposing party) and motion to file a SurReply brief, created a Powerpoint for presentation for a continuing legal education class on class actions at an NAACP conference, and wrote a major part of an appellant reply brief in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. All the while, I still did tasks for Ms. Hanson.

Also, I often observed the attorneys in court, with clients, and during mediation. For instance, I had the opportunity to watch multiple pre-trial negotiations on a variety of criminal and civil legal matters. For example, for a criminal case, I observed prenegotiations with the prosecutor on a theft charge. In addition, for a civil case, I observed a mediation for a loan modification to avert a foreclosure. During these instances, it was interesting to observe how the Housing Advocates, Inc. attorneys interacted with opposing counsel attorneys, and how they were able to persuade them to agree to a settlement on a case. I was also able to observe trial proceedings on two occasions.

Finally, I had extensive observation of client interaction with the Housing Advocates, Inc. lawyers. I was able to see, first hand, their strategies for talking to clients and dealing with their legal issues. For example, I was present for an interview to sign a new client, meetings with current clients about their pending cases, and discussions with clients in the courthouse about how they were going to handle particular issues of their case.

In addition, I also had the opportunity to visit several courts including the Cleveland Court of Common Pleas, the Cleveland Municipal Court Housing Division, the Berea Municipal Court, a Cleveland Criminal Court, and a Columbus Criminal Court. At the conclusion of the internship, I was required to write a transitional memorandum, which gave details about each case I worked on and its current status. I also attached all relevant documentation for each case.

The overall experience was very rewarding. I did a lot of work that benefitted clients whom otherwise may not have received adequate legal representation. I also learned a lot of useful, real world knowledge that will be greatly beneficial in my future legal work.
The Center sponsors frequent lunch-time lectures.