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Practice Makes Perfect: LSU Law alumnus Joe Macaluso creates Law Clinic Support Fund

For 31 years, Joe Macaluso (’79), a Hammond, La., native and current New Orleans resident, traveled the world throughout his legal career, from South America to Europe to the Middle East. Exploring his broad options for giving, he was impressed by the LSU Law Clinic program and its dual purpose of serving those in need of legal defense while preparing students for practice. The Joseph P. Macaluso LSU Law Clinic Support Fund will provide students the experience of real-life representation of clients and make a positive impact on the community.

The LSU Law Clinical Legal Education Program offers many options—including juvenile defense, immigration, parole and reentry, prosecution, and wrongful conviction—for students to practice law and represent indigent clients in the Baton Rouge community, or act as mediators in the Baton Rouge City Court. Similar to a residency in medical school, students practice under special authority of the Louisiana Supreme Court and with close faculty supervision as they represent real clients with important legal issues or serve as mediators in real cases of controversy.

“We are designing our courses so that students really understand best practices and are really developing into professional attorneys that will benefit the bar on graduation. We are also providing a much-needed service in the community: we are assisting individuals who would not have representation otherwise,” said Robert Lancaster, professor and assistant dean of experiential education.

Macaluso, who completed his undergraduate degree from Southeastern Louisiana University, called attending LSU Law a “no brainer” due to the school’s relatively low cost, impressive bar exam passage rate, and convenient location. He adjusted to the larger campus environment and the “humbling” experience of being surrounded by his new fellow high-performing peers. He is especially grateful for his education in civil law, which he was able to seamlessly apply to his international career.

“I had no idea that my LSU Law degree would take me where it did. I had the pleasure and the opportunity to basically see the world while using my LSU Law education, being a corporate lawyer, negotiating contracts for first Halliburton Co., then briefly with British Gas, and ultimately with Chevron,” Macaluso said. His advice for students: “Take classes that will make you a well-rounded attorney because you never know when you’re going to need something.”

The LSU Law Clinical Legal Education Program was created in 2008 to address the growing demand of employers for “practice-ready” law graduates in addition to new requirements of the American Bar Association. Macaluso, feeling an obligation to give back to where he got his start, was introduced to the program through LSU Law Center and LSU Foundation development staff, and he was inspired to create an endowment to support the clinic. In establishing the endowment, he afforded LSU Law the latitude to use the funds however they can be most impactful to the clinics and their clients.

“I realize that that’s where I wanted my money to go because I think, by and large, the work of the clinics mirrors my belief system,” he explained. “Their goal and their mission is to serve underserved people, people who can’t afford legal representation, people who have either had brushes with the law and are trying to reenter society or are trying to defend themselves whether they’re guilty or innocent. They deserve a defense.”

Macaluso also appreciates that the clinics serve the immigrant community. “Until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform, which includes a registered guest worker program, I think we’re going to continue to have a problem with illegal immigration, and the processes that are in place are overwhelmed right now,” he said. “Any help that can be given from a legal standpoint to make the system work better, not only for those of us who were citizens but for those people who are seeking asylum or seeking to come into the U.S., is a good thing.”

Macaluso commends the students participating in the clinics, despite the busy learning schedule he knows that they are balancing, and he encouraged all current LSU Law students to focus on how they will apply their legal education to make their mark: “Soak up and learn as much as you can from the mentors that you have and the experience that you have. Take that with your diploma, go forth in the world, and do your thing!”

The LSU Law Clinic is one of a broad slate of experiential opportunities at the Law Center that provide students with the opportunity to learn through practice. The Law Center also offers a range of experiential courses through field placements and simulation courses, and students are required to complete at least six credit hours of these experiential courses prior to graduation.