Law School Transactional Clinic Helps Create, Sustain Hundreds of Nonprofits
From left, professor Tim Tarvin in the Transactional Clinic office with law students Julian Sharp, Taylor Ellis, Robert Riley and Erin James.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Since its founding in 2006, students enrolled in the University of Arkansas School of Law Transactional Clinic have assisted roughly 200 community groups across Arkansas to achieve and maintain their status as nonprofit organizations. In setting up each nonprofit organization, law students develop practical skills attorneys use daily and get experience applying business and nonprofit law to clients' needs.
The Transactional Clinic allows student attorneys to gain experience in business transactions law while assisting Arkansas non-profit organizations with organizational legal issues. Client representations may include helping organizations draft bylaws, file articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State, file for tax exempt status with state and federal tax agencies and prepare articles of dissolution for non-profits that have reached the end of their missions.
Organizations created and supported by the Transactional Clinic have gone on to achieve important outcomes and serve Arkansas in critical ways. Among them is the National Child Protection Task Force (NCPTF), which partners with law enforcement, private organizations, nonprofit foundations, service providers and highly skilled individuals to educate and combat human trafficking and child exploitation. Currently, the organization is planning a June 2020 conference to address cyber investigation of child predators and human traffickers.
"NCPTF is a nonprofit organization due to the work of the Transactional Clinic," said Kevin Metcalf, its founder and leader. "For those of us that have not been through the process, it can be intimidating and overwhelming. The Transactional Clinic faculty, student attorneys and staff knew exactly what would be required and each meeting was focused on specific requirements and very efficiently done. I cannot thank them enough for helping us through the process."
Another former Transactional Clinic client is Alpha Gal Encouragers. The Rogers-based organization seeks to "encourage, empower and educate" people about Alpha Gal Syndrome, which is a tick-borne disease that creates an allergy to mammal meat and products.
"The group is eternally grateful for the support we received from everyone at the Legal Clinic," said Jennifer Burton, founder of the organization. "It was not only the hard work, efforts and guidance from the law students who assisted us, but the support of the entire staff and professor Tarvin that made it possible for the Alpha Gal Encouragers, Inc. to become a non-profit charity and continue our mission with renewed energy."
Students enrolled in this semester-long law school course learn a variety of critical lawyering lessons.
"Often, students discover that one way they learn best is by doing," said Tim Tarvin, professor of law and director of the Transactional Clinic. "Our clinical program offers them the opportunity to be lead counsel for corporate clients and to experience what that is like. The opportunity is both educational, as the student learns a discrete skill set, and at the same time provides a valuable public service to the charities we represent."
Before joining the University of Arkansas School of Law faculty in 1993, Tarvin served as a deputy prosecuting attorney, bankruptcy trustee, juvenile judge and municipal judge. He has directed the clinic for 14 years, and he championed for its founding because he believed students should have the opportunity to build practical skills in a non-adversary clinic.
"The Transactional Clinic is a great way to develop critical skills — such as client communication, interviewing and client management — in a learning environment," said former Transactional Clinic student Erin James. "Instead of learning on the job later, I have had the opportunity to reflect on my client representation with professor Tarvin and learn how to make myself a better attorney."
Another former student, Christopher Hooks, is grateful to have contributed to the clinic's work supporting nonprofits.
"The Transactional Clinic serves as a beacon that guides clients in the Northwest Arkansas area and turns their charitable dreams into reality as functioning, nonprofit entities," he said.
For more than four decades, the University of Arkansas Legal Clinic, an umbrella for multiple clinics and practice areas, has given law students hands-on skills training by representing clients in real life legal situations and has provided free legal services throughout Arkansas and beyond. Clinic students practice law under the close supervision of a full-time faculty member. The Transactional Clinic is one of six clinics offered at the school.
Darinda Sharp, director of communications
School of Law
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