The Consumer Law Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School has three primary purposes:
- Pedagogy: training law students in all aspects of civil litigation
- Client Service: representing individuals and groups unable to obtain private counsel
- Public Interest Advocacy: working on cases which present the opportunity to shape the law in ways that will benefit future consumers
About the Consumer Law Clinic
Since its inception in 1991, the Consumer Law Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School has provided legal services to lower income clients while providing law students the opportunity for hands-on training. The CLC handles individual and class action lawsuits in state and federal court covering a variety of consumer protection issues, including misrepresentation and fraud, credit scams, predatory lending, unfair debt collection practices and "fringe banking" abuses by rent-to-own and payday loan companies. In partnership with the Dane County Foreclosure Prevention Taskforce, CLC students join volunteer attorneys from the community to staff a free, drop-in legal clinic for homeowners facing foreclosure. The CLC also advocates for consumers before the Wisconsin Legislature and administrative agencies, and provides community-based outreach and education on consumer issues.
Consumer Law Clinic students participate in all aspects of the clinic's work. They interview and counsel clients, investigate and evaluate potential cases, draft complaints, briefs, motions and discovery requests, prepare counsel to take and defend depositions, argue before courts, and participate in trials. Student work on legislative and administrative advocacy projects includes drafting and analyzing proposed legislation and administrative rules, delivering testimony at public hearings, and meeting with government officials. Students also prepare and deliver presentations on issues of concern to low-income consumers at community centers.
The CLC has an Advisory Board comprised of experts in consumer law and behavior. The Board meets with the clinical students each semester. During these meetings, students report on their cases and receive feedback and advice from Board members. The Board is also helpful in analyzing potential cases and their merit. Members of the Advisory Board for the 2011-12 Jeff Archibald, Archibald Consumer Law Office; Connie Kilmark, Kilmark and Associates; Mary Fons, Fons Law Office; Dan Hayes, Michael Blumenfeld Associates; Mitch Hagopian, Disability Rights Wisconsin; Stacia Conneely, Legal Action of Wisconsin; Judy Tomczak, Tomczak Law Office; Marsha Mansfield, University of Wisconsin Law School; and Gerald Thain, University of Wisconsin Law School.
- An amicus curaie ("friend of the court") brief to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals on the importance of the right to sue for illegal repairs by a car dealership.
- Class actions on behalf of Wisconsin residents who entered into loan contracts with internet payday lending companies.
- A class action against a credit card company that resulted in a Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision striking down a mandatory arbitration clause as unconscionable.
- A lawsuit filed on behalf of a retiree who was the target of illegal debt collection by an installment loan company.
- A lawsuit filed on behalf of several Latino consumers in Dane County victimized by a California company fraudulently promising them careers as licensed auto mechanics.
- A lawsuit filed on behalf of an elderly widow challenging false advertising and fraudulent marketing tactics by a credit card company.
- Several class actions on behalf of consumers who entered into payday loan contracts with interest rates exceeding 500%.
- A statewide class action challenging a variety of false and deceptive practices by a company that sells timeshares in the Wisconsin Dells.
- Legislative advocacy on Wisconsin's Lemon Law, the Wisconsin Consumer Act, including its fee-shifting provision, and proposals on payday lending and rent-to-own.