William F. O'Brien
EDMOND — In the ninth decade of the last century there was talk in the Oklahoma City area about what was described as “the miracle on 23rd St.” in which one of the institutions located on that thoroughfare, Oklahoma City University, underwent a renaissance that revitalized it and brought thousands of new students to its campus. It would seem that that dynamic is continuing, with the school attracting students and faculty from across the country and around the world.
It was said of the late Nelson Rockefeller when he was governor of New York that he was afflicted with what was termed an “edifice complex” that compelled him to erect public buildings throughout that state. A similar observation could be made about the current president of OCU, Tom McDaniel, and his predecessor, Stephen Jennings, who have overseen the construction of new buildings on the 68-acre campus. One of those structures houses the OCU School of Law, which is headed by Dean Lawrence Hellman.
Hellman, who became a faculty member of OCU Law school in 1977, after obtaining a law degree and an MBA from Northwestern University, and serving in the Antitrust Division of the US Justice Department, recently spoke about some of the accomplishments of that institution. Last year, the graduates of OCU Law had a 95 percent pass rate for the Oklahoma Bar Examination. OCU law students won the national championship in the 2007 Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition.
Hellman said his school ranks No. 2 in the nation in the number of American Indian law students enrolled, and said OCU has a history of providing opportunities for American Indians and other minorities who wish to enter the legal profession. He is intent on maintaining that tradition, and the school has several outreach programs for minority students as a result.
Under Hellman’s leadership the school also has opened several legal clinics that provide services to the citizenry. The Native American Legal Resource Centers provides assistance to American Indians who are the victims of domestic violence. There is another clinic that is funded by grants from an Oklahoma City-based foundation that provides legal assistance to the victims of crime. Earlier this year the school opened an Immigration Clinic that provides legal services to immigrants in the Oklahoma City area.
Hellman said that clinic allows several students to provide a variety of legal services under the supervision of the staff of the Immigration Assistance division of Catholic Charities of Oklahoma. The school also offers externships in which students can earn academic credit by working at institutions such as the US Attorneys Office in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma County District Attorneys office, and several other organizations. The law school also has public interest fellowships for its students in which they can spend the summer with nonprofit organizations such as the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s Office.
OCU Law now has a relationship with Nankai University law school in China, and last summer the school brought 15 Chinese law students to its campus to give them a one-month introduction to the American legal system. Hellman said those students enjoyed their stay in Oklahoma City and impressed their teachers with their dedication to the study of law. Even more students from that university are expected for this summer, and a group of OCU Law students will be studying Chinese law this summer at Nankai University. Hellman said OCU Law School is part of the Oklahoma legal profession and that he is proud of the role that it has played in producing members of that profession.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.