19 May 2021
Nebraska Law students Alan Dugger, Tessa Lengeling, Sarah O’Neill and Amy Sonnenfeld received recognition from the Clinical Legal Education Association for their work on the Tenants Assistance Project (TAP).
CLEA Excellence in Public Interest Case or Project Award – Honorable Mention
TAP and Dugger, ’22, Lengeling, ’21, O’Neill, ’21, and Sonnenfeld, ’21, have received Honorable Mention for the CLEA Excellence in Public Interest Case or Project Award. This award recognizes a case or project that contributes to the public good and may be given to an individual law student or group of law students.
TAP was developed to expand and improve legal representation for tenants facing eviction, and Dugger, Lengeling, O’Neill, and Sonnenfeld have been integral to its success. Collectively, this group of four students created or supervised the creation of over 500 eviction defense packets and covered over 200 shifts at the courthouse.
When a tenant arrives at the courthouse, a community volunteer stationed at the elevator door will ask if they are there for a landlord-tenant case. Tenants then work with the community volunteer to complete some initial paperwork and are introduced to a TAP volunteer attorney or student attorney. To date, every tenant who has appeared for a hearing and sought the assistance from TAP has been provided legal representation.
More than 60 area attorneys and several dozen senior-certified law students from the University of Nebraska College of Law, including Dugger, Lengeling, O’Neill and Sonnenfeld, have provided assistance or entered appearances as part of TAP. Since April 2020, the Project has assisted nearly 450 families avoid or delay eviction.
CLEA Outstanding Externship Student Award
Amy Sonnenfeld is a recipient of the 2021 CLEA Outstanding Externship Student Award. This award is given for excellence in externship fieldwork and for exceptionally thoughtful, self-reflective participation in an accompanying externship seminar.
Sonnenfeld was nominated by the College of Law for her externship with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), a statewide pro bono program of the Nebraska State Bar Association. VLP facilitates the Tenants Assistance Project in Lancaster County.
Through her externship, Sonnenfeld worked as the on-site coordinator of TAP, greeting volunteer attorneys and student attorneys and pairing them with unrepresented tenants. Sonnenfeld has created templates for attorney volunteers, informational packets for tenants, and tracks volunteer data and case outcome so that her supervisor, the previous on-site coordinator, can replicate the TAP in other areas of our state.
CLEA Outstanding Clinic Student Award
Tessa Lengeling and Sarah O’Neill are recipients of the 2021 CLEA Outstanding Clinic Student Award. This award is given for excellence in the fieldwork component of a legal clinic, the quality of a student’s thoughtfulness and self-reflection and their contributions to the clinical community.
Lengeling and O’Neill were nominated for their work as co-leaders of the Civil Clinic’s Clean Slate Project, their estate planning services provided to veterans through the Wills for Heroes program, and their efforts in assisting families avoid eviction through the Tenant Assistance Project.
These two students continued to work on eviction cases over the holiday break after their semester in the Civil Clinic had concluded and were ultimately hired as teaching assistants for the spring semester. In these roles, they mentored other law students volunteering with the program and handled much of the logistic and scheduling effort. They also continued to represent TAP clients and cover eviction hearings all the way up to the week of graduation.