Civil Clinic Helps Tenant Resolve Damage Dispute with Landlord

“I was elated at the success of this case,” reflects Civil Clinic legal intern Michael Locker. “The skills I was taught by Civil Clinic Professors Allen Gruber and Allen Snyder, as well as my own experience, produced a result that was on the high end of my expectations. I also found the value of the experience very significant to my preparation for my future career as an attorney.”

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Photo credit: Eric Jusino, Flickr Creative Commons License.

Legal intern Michael Locker was assigned as the legal intern for a landlord tenant dispute that came to the USD Legal Clinics’ Civil Clinic in the fall. The tenant’s landlord had kept his deposit and also billed him an additional fee for damages. The tenant believed the damages were mistaken, and at first attempted to speak with the apartment manager on his own. The landlord informed the tenant they would not change their evaluation of the damages, and so the tenant scheduled an appointment with USD Legal Clinics’ Civil Clinic.

Locker worked with the tenant under the guidance of Supervising Attorneys Allen Gruber and Allen Snyder. After reviewing the case with the professors, Locker drafted and then sent a demand letter. The landlord did not respond to the letter, so Locker followed up with a phone call.

“I researched the applicable procedure, sent a demand letter, and then engaged in vigorous negotiations,” describes Locker. “The experience allowed for a real world application of legal procedure and allowed me to test my negotiation skills and get an accurate measure of my strengths and weaknesses. Now, I am enrolled in the negotiations course and I have no doubt that by the end of the course, I will have even stronger negotiation skills. Since 95% of civil cases are settled prior to verdict, these skills are central to any litigator’s toolbox.”

Locker, under his professors’ supervision, completed several settlement negotiations connecting back with the tenant for feedback. After a little over a month, the case was settled for a credit in the tenant’s favor and, just a few days later, the tenant received a check.

“One of the best results from this experience was observing how Michael Locker, as a student intern, was able to calm the client who was confronted by a landlord who was obviously taking advantage of him because the landlord had economic leverage,” comments Professor Gruber. “Michael did a great job, not only in effecting an very satisfactory outcome, but in completely gaining his client’s confidence.”

“Both the faculty and paralegal Elizabeth Magana-Contreras were invaluable in assisting with the case,” adds Locker. “Their real world advice and guidance allowed me to engage in this process without a mountain of fear that I was going to miss some detail that was going to damage my client’s case.”

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