Students in assistant professor Jason Cade’s Community Health Law Partnership clinic gain practical experience providing legal services to low-income patients at community health centers.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned an A.B. in English and education from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. I am currently an assistant professor in the School of Law, where I direct an in-house legal clinic and teach immigration law.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I started at Georgia Law in 2013. Before that I had been in New York City for over a decade, which is where I went to law school, clerked for a judge, practiced law and then taught for three years at New York University Law School. I enthusiastically accepted a faculty position at Georgia Law for a combination of professional and personal reasons.
My colleagues are great scholars, but more importantly they are really good people who genuinely care about our students as well as each other. So I was excited to join that community. I also was ready to return to a Southern college town. I grew up on a farm in western North Carolina and then lived a long time in the Chapel Hill area, so I had a pretty good idea of what life in Athens would be like. Plus, I am very passionate about the arts and music, especially Southern traditional music, having played fiddle all my life. As expected, it’s been wonderful to raise our kids here and to get involved in the music scene in addition to my academic work.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I teach two courses and love them both. One is an intensive two-semester clinic called the “Community Health Law Partnership” (also known as “Community HeLP”). Working under my supervision (I’m a licensed attorney in Georgia), each year eight law students in the clinic provide a variety of civil legal services to low-income patients at local community health centers serving Athens and surrounding counties. The students gain deep experience with real-life lawyering in this course, representing individuals in all aspects of their cases. Many of our clients are facing crisis situations and all of them are in poverty. Every semester the cases are different, which means I have to be very flexible in keeping the curriculum relevant. I structure the clinic so that students continually practice and reflect on skills and experiences, learning collaboratively from each other’s challenges as well as their successes. The students gain tools in the process that I think translate to almost any kind of legal work. Just as importantly, they tend to end up embracing the core value that all clients deserve outstanding representation—including, and perhaps especially, those who cannot afford to hire an attorney.
Teaching the doctrinal immigration law course is very rewarding, too. That subject matter aligns with my primary research areas, and I love having discussions with students about how well the goals underlying the immigration system align with the on-the-ground realities of immigration law and procedure.
What interests you about your field?
Although the Community HeLP clinic engages in many aspects of poverty law, my primary area of research and practice has been immigration law. As a scholar, I try to make sense of the roles and responsibilities of the many officials who implement the sprawling, rigid immigration code and to think about the complexities of how we use immigration law to define our national community. I’m particularly interested in examining how our legal institutions operate for noncitizens who encounter the criminal justice system or who lack a path to lawful status under current law.
As a still-practicing lawyer, many things interest me about immigration law. You have to be very creative and you have to be a good storyteller in this field. The work typically involves figuring out solutions to complex problems and helping clients effectively communicate their stories in ways that are accurate, compelling and legally significant. Also, when you have success in an immigration case, frequently you’ve achieved life-changing results for your client, which is very gratifying.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Starting the Community HeLP clinic and working so closely with the students who enroll in it has been a real highlight. I get to know them well and I have the opportunity to provide intensive feedback and guidance for two semesters, which makes for a very different kind of experience than a typical law school class. They learn so much by representing real people and working on actual legal issues, and it’s exciting to see their growth over the year.
I have also loved the scholarship aspect of being an academic, and particularly the opportunities it has given me to engage with other scholars at conferences, online symposia and through other ways. Recently I wrote an article that generated several response essays from professors whose work I have long respected, which was a very big honor.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
My teaching is very much informed by my experiences as a practicing attorney and my desire to expose students to real-world situations and legal issues. Even in the immigration law survey course, I look for ways to provide experiential learning opportunities. For example, I have created attorney-client simulations (typically, I play the client) that enable students to practice and receive feedback on their ability to develop relevant facts through a client interview and then give legal advice, sometimes while navigating ethical issues.
Teaching the immigration course has in turn benefited my scholarship, simply because preparing, teaching and testing that wide range of material has broadened and deepened my knowledge of the field.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
Some of this I’ve touched on in previous answers above. In the clinic, one goal I have is that my students understand that many seemingly small advocacy tasks—such as phone calls, emails or letters to low-level agency officials—must be approached with the same thought process and care that they would put into a legal brief. I try to teach a framework for approaching any legal advocacy: understand the expectations of the relevant audience; find the most persuasive authority; perfect the facts and arguments through practice, revision and collaboration; and then, when the task is over, reflect on what went well and what could be improved next time.
In the immigration course, my goals are both practice-oriented (intended to impart nuts-and-bolts knowledge for immigration law and a range of administrative law practice), and theory-based (designed to give students the historical background and analytical tools to engage in thoughtful debate about important and controversial issues).
Describe your ideal student.
Engaged, proactive, curious and open-minded about new viewpoints.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
I enjoy being outside and walking through North Campus, especially in the early spring. I also just moved into a new office with great sunlight and a beautiful old desk, so I am appreciating that for the moment.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to …
I love to do family stuff with my wife and kids (currently aged 7 and 3). Late at night I play a lot of fiddle and banjo to decompress, and from time to time I perform in my traditional old-time band (Hog-eyed Man). When weather and time allow, I skateboard or garden. And at the beginning of each summer I like to recoup from the year by trying to build stuff in the backyard; thus far I’ve constructed a tree house, a swing set and a chicken coop.
Community/civic involvement includes …
I’m somewhat involved in the local music scene, and love to offer music at community events. I also do over 150 hours of pro bono legal work each year related to the Community HeLP clinic’s clients but separate from my regular teaching and supervision of my students’ clinical work.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
I don’t really have a favorite book or movie, but right now I’m re-reading Ursula Le Guin’s “Wizard of Earthsea” trilogy with my son, which I loved as a kid and very much enjoy revisiting again. Beyond the superb writing and storytelling, her themes are so timeless: the importance of language and words; the value of perseverance and practice; and the challenges of being self-aware and giving life to the best parts of our natures. Plus, dragons and magic are just awesome at any age.
Proudest moment at UGA?
That’s too hard to choose, but several of my Community HeLP clinic students’ victories, and some of our losses, stand out. My students represent a lot of folks who have been pretty beaten down by life. Sometimes there’s not much we can do but soften the blows for a time, and give the person the dignity of being listened to and having a genuine advocate on their side. When my students recognize the value of that and give their client their very best, even when the outcome is a likely loss, I am just as proud as when they are able to win some kind of relief.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I feel very lucky to be at Georgia Law. I am grateful to have a job that allows me to think deeply and write about the laws and institutions that affect some of the most vulnerable among us. It’s a privilege to get to engage in a variety of work that I really care about, with a supportive faculty, while also having the opportunity to live and raise a family in a town with such strong sense of community and interesting cultural opportunities.