About the Consumer Law Clinic
Since its inception in 1991, the Consumer Law Clinic (CLC) 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.
Information for Students
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
Working closely with CLC Director Sarah Orr, students engage in a wide range of lawyering skills, from the beginning of the client relationship to the conclusion of the case. Students also provide limited assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure at a free, drop-in legal clinic. Students study a broad syllabus of consumer law, with an emphasis on how the complexities of the law affect people in our communities. Students interested in the CLC should contact Professor Sarah Orr at email@example.com.
- 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.
Information for the Public
The Consumer Law Clinic (CLC) provides assistance and information to Wisconsin consumers with legal problems involving businesses such as debt collection, repossession, fraud and misrepresentation, unfair business practices and high-cost credit from payday and online lenders. Clients receive services from trained law students with close attorney supervision.
Individuals seeking services can call (608) 263-6283 or visit the CLC's community intake on Tuesdays, 9:00 - 11:00 AM at the Dane County Courthouse, 215 S. Hamilton Street, Room L1000 in Madison. No appointment is necessary, but individuals should bring all papers related to their questions.
CLC can help with these types of problems:
- You're being sued for a debt you don't recognize;
- Your earnings are being garnished by a creditor;
- A debt collector is threatening or harassing you;
- You bought something based on misrepresentation or fraud;
- You received a foreclosure lawsuit and want to know your options; or
- You think a payday lender, auto-title lender or rent-to-own shop has violated your rights.
CLC cannot help you with:
- Criminal Law
- Employment Law
- Family Law
- Faulty products
- General civil cases, such as disputes between private parties
- Insurance denials
- Personal injury
- Public Benefits
- Traffic Tickets
- Unemployment compensation
- Workers' compendation