Clinic Student Argues in Court of Appeals

Matthew Belisle's ('13) experience "felt like a test for skills that I had been learning throughout law school"

man walking up stairsAs a student attorney in the Criminal Law Clinic, Matthew Belisle (’13) knew he would be representing real clients in trial court at the Boston Municipal, Boston Juvenile and Quincy District Courts. But mere days before graduation, he was arguing a probation violation case in front of the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.

“Everything is challenging and interesting when you're doing it for the first time,” said Belisle ahead of the hearing. “I look forward to the arguments—it has been a lot of work.”

The case began several semesters ago with another student, who represented the client at the trial level. When Belisle entered the criminal clinic in the spring of his 2L year, supervisor and Clinical Associate Professor of Law Karen Pita Loor asked him if he would like to take it over on appeal. Loor arranged for Belisle to pursue the appeal in part as a special supervised research and writing course.

Belisle set to work, researching the issue, drafting briefs, and completing all of the procedural aspects of the appeals process. The clinic faculty worked with him through multiple drafts of the briefs and invited local appellate attorneys to help him perfect his arguments through moot arguments.

“The clinic was a great way to learn from experienced practitioners,” notes Belisle.

Even after Belisle had finished his two-semester involvement in the regular criminal clinic, the case was still in process. He later learned the Court would hear the case on May 13, just days before he would graduate from BU Law.

“He’s worked incredibly hard on this case, way beyond what he needed to do in terms of the clinic,” says Loor. “When we finally went before the Court, he was no longer seeking any credit for his work, yet he still was working hard on the case.”

His extra work and dedication finally paid off when his day at the Court of Appeals arrived. The panel of judges was quite impressed with Belisle’s preparation and professional demeanor and complimented him on his efforts.

“Oral arguments felt like a test for skills that I had been learning throughout law school, beginning my 1L year,” explains Belisle. “It was a great way to finish up at BU Law.”

It was also a rewarding day for Loor, who cares deeply about equipping her students with the tools they need to succeed in their professional lives, whether at the Court of Appeals or on a day-to-day basis. She sees the clinic as a substantial learning opportunity for those passionate about litigation.

“This is an example of the depth of hands-on experience a student can get in the clinic,” says Loor of Belisle’s success. “For those interested in becoming practicing lawyers, the clinic is BU Law’s opportunity for students committed to following a case at this level.”

Reported by Elyssa Sternberg
June 2013

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