George C. Cochran Innocence Project
The mission of our clinical program is to educate students in the practical art of lawyering while providing quality legal representation to Mississippi state prisoners serving significant periods of incarceration who have cognizable claims of wrongful conviction. The clinic itself offers students a unique opportunity to serve the public; to explore career possibilities; to gain first-hand insight into the strategic and ethical dimensions of the profession; and to acquire valuable legal skills.
Almost without exception our students tell us year in and year out that their clinical experience was the best and most rewarding aspect of their law school education. At first blush their praise may appear to be directed at us — the faculty lawyers in whatever clinics they participated in. And while I think we have a terrific set of clinics and faculty, the students’ praise is really directed more at our clinical philosophy, at the merging of theory and practice and their experience of being a real lawyer for the first time. Maybe what they enjoyed is providing a service to the underserved; or maybe wrestling with a ethical issue in real time; perhaps it was the singular opportunity of meeting an incarcerated client whose life — literally — depended on their work. No matter what, though, their clinical experience got to the very core of what it means to be a lawyer, to engage in the craft of counseling those who have come to you in need. In the end, what they are grateful to the clinics for is for providing for the first time the opportunity to enjoy and understand fully the depth and responsibility of that privilege.