Clinical Professor Michele LaVigne has been named the UW Law School's Clinical Teacher of the Year for 2008. Prof. Lavigne is the first winner of this newly-established award honoring faculty who use clinical methodologies in their teaching. She was honored in mid-November at a dinner of the Law School's Board of Visitors.
Prof. LaVigne directs the Remington Center's Public Defender Project, and also founded the highly successful Mock Trial Program at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan, Wisconsin.
In the Public Defender Project, Prof. Lavigne teaches a spring semester seminar and a trial advocacy course, in order to prepare students for their ten-week summer internships in Public Defender offices throughout Wisconsin. The students' summer experience is followed by a fall semester seminar focusing on professional responsibility. Prof. Lavigne also teaches advanced courses in criminal law and procedure. She is a faculty member of the National Criminal Defense College and the Wisconsin Public Defender Trial Skills Academy, and has given presentations on trial advocacy to defense attorneys around the country.
Prof. LaVigne comments, "What I like best about clinical teaching is watching the students fall in love with practicing law. The students have such energy and enthusiasm that I am constantly reminded what an honor it is to be involved in this whole endeavor."
She adds, "The other great kick is running into former students who have turned into top-notch lawyers, and who tell me how they are still using what they learned in their law school clinical work."
In the past decade, Prof. LaVigne has focused her research on the intersection between deaf persons and the legal system. She co-authored "An Interpreter Isn't Enough: Deafness, Language and Due Process," (with McCay Vernon), 2003 Wis. L. Rev. 843, which discusses language acquisition and the situation of deaf and severely hard-of-hearing individuals in the criminal justice system. She has lectured to organizations of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, as well as to interpreter groups. In 2005, Prof. LaVigne received the Distinguished Member of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Association of the Deaf. She is currently working on an article outlining the consequences of communication disorders in juveniles.