Civil Litigation Program in Action
Marjan Batchelor ('13) Wins Trial in Quincy Court
When a Vietnamese couple from Quincy, Massachusetts wanted to buy a house in the fall of 2009, they were referred to a nearby Vietnamese-speaking attorney. The first-time home-buyers had never finished high school and spoke little English, so they relied on their attorney for legal advice.
What the attorney didn't tell the couple is that he also represented Bank of America, the mortgage lender through whom the couple had applied for a loan. When his clients struggled to produce financing, he also didn't alert them that if they signed an amended purchase and sales agreement and still couldn't produce financing, they wouldn't get their deposit back.
The couple signed the amended agreement. Bank of America withdrew their funding when they learned the husband was no longer employed, and they soon lost the $13,000 deposit they'd placed on the house. That deposit was their life savings.
Marjan Batchelor ('13) isn't a lawyer yet, but on May 16, 2012, at the end of her second year at BU Law, she represented the couple in a trial in the Quincy District Court under the state's student practice rule and won.
"She conducted the entire trial," said Robert Burdick, director of BU Law's Civil Litigation Program, the clinic through which Batchelor got involved in the case.
Batchelor isn't the first student to assist on the case. Larry Perchick ('11) and Crystal Callahan ('12) completed initial research and preliminary discovery and filed a complaint in the Quincy court during their enrollment in the clinic. When the case finally reached trial this May, conducting formal discovery and trying the case fell to Batchelor, who had been taking depositions and counseling the clients during her two semesters in the program.
"I found that being in a clinic brought so much of what I learned in class to life."
It was Batchelor's cross-examination of the defendant that made the biggest impression on her professor. "In my opinion, it was her cross-examination of the defendant which won us the case," Burdick said. "It brought tears to my eyes. The first cross-examination of her career was a masterpiece. It's why I do this job."
The judge agreed. He ruled that, as Batchelor had argued, the case was one of legal malpractice, and he ordered the $13,000 be paid to the couple by their former lawyer.
The case "reinforced my desire to be in the courtroom," Batchelor said. "I was already interested in being a trial attorney before law school, but the experience of taking depositions, counseling clients, and appearing before a few different judges helped it all seem within reach. I didn't expect to have a chance to do any of these things until several years into my career as an attorney."
Batchelor acknowledged that there were some major challenges along the way. "One of the biggest challenges was probably the fact that opposing counsel was a very experienced attorney. Here I was, a year into law school trying to negotiate settlement with an attorney who has been practicing law for decades. I was initially pretty worried that he would never take me seriously, but although he zealously advocated for his client, he always treated me as an equal," she said. "I learned how to hold my own even though I had far less experience."
Batchelor urges all BU Law students to take part in a clinical program.
"I found that being in a clinic brought so much of what I learned in class to life. It also gave me a much stronger sense of purpose and focus," she said. "Getting constant feedback helped me kick-start the process of familiarizing myself with what will benefit me and what I still need to work on to be a great attorney."
Reported by Chelsea Sheasley
July 27, 2012