Law Students Helping Prevent Land Loss

Madison, WI, July 1, 2002 -- Each summer, the Land Tenure Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison places law students with organizations around the country that help minority communities fight land loss. For the summer months, these "externs" find themselves preparing wills, filing formal appeals with federal agencies, researching land titles, drafting community educational materials, and even participating in courtroom proceedings.

Attorneys for public interest law firms, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and Native American nations supervise the externs as they gain practical experience while providing valuable legal services that can prevent the loss of land for people in African-American, Appalachian, Latino, and Native-American communities.

In Georgia, an extern is searching land titles to assist pro bono attorneys as they prepare cases to fight the loss of family land through fraud. In Minnesota, an extern is preparing educational material for farmers seeking disaster relief from the floods there. And in Oklahoma, an extern is learning how a tribe may be able to save approximately $100,000 in consulting and legal fees.

This year, the Deputy Director of the Law Clinic at the University of Natal-Durban in South Africa was an observer at the two-day orientation for the externs on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. She plans to use the program as a model for establishing a similar effort in South Africa.

Now in its sixth year, the "Land Law and Tenure Security Extern Program" has grown to 12 students serving in as many sites. This summer, there are two new sites in Wisconsin, and one each in Georgia, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Carolina. The Center's Brenda Haskins heads the program while UW Law School Professor Jane Larson is the faculty sponsor.

The University of Wisconsin sent five students to field sites this summer. Other law schools providing students are Fordham, Georgia, Minnesota, North Dakota, Pace, and Tennessee.