Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008
Earl R. C. Singleton
Thomas Ehrlich Awards for Excellence in Service Learning
Clinical Professor of Law
School of Law
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 1997
B.A., Oberlin College, 1972
J.D., Indiana University, 1986
". . .when his students returned to their regular classes, they brought with them a greater understanding of law and its complexities and an increased ability to think critically about the law and its application."
--James A. Tanford, Professor, Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington
Earl Singleton's classroom extends beyond a single room in the IU School of Law-Bloomington. To encompass all the learning experiences his students receive, one would have to include the Community Legal Clinic and, in turn, an entire community.
Singleton is director of the Community Legal Clinic, which provides IU law students invaluable experience representing clients while serving members of the community who are unable to afford legal services. He began his IU career in 1989 as supervising attorney for the clinic and was appointed to the law school faculty in 1997.
As a clinical professor of law, Singleton has made it his mission not only to educate law students, but also to reach out to Bloomington citizens. "I view clinical teaching as a vehicle for giving back to the community," Singleton says, and knowing the impact he has on his students and the legal and Bloomington communities continues to motivate him in his teaching.
Singleton and his students serve the community on a grassroots level, relating to clients both personally and professionally. "Many of the clients are in heartbreaking and frightening situations," says Lauren Robel, dean of the School of Law. "For example, one client was a woman in nearby Washington County. When her house burned down and her ex-husband laid claim to the insurance benefits, she sought counsel at the Clinic...the Clinic made sure she was treated fairly."
Singleton's success in the service-learning environment of the CLC, his ability to organize the clinic, and the overwhelming student response to the clinic in its early years led the law school to create more clinical opportunities for students. Students recognize the invaluable experience of having a chance to handle a case and client.
Members of the local legal community praise the preparation and professionalism Singleton's students exhibit while in the courtroom. Singleton serves as a model for his students, using the most ethical practices of lawyering, and he expects the same from his students.
Graduates remember Singleton as their first legal coach -- someone who met with them weekly, always had an open door policy, and helped them make the transition from the classroom to the courtroom. "The CLC, through the efforts of Earl Singleton, gave me that first taste of real world practice and thus provided me with the confidence that I could, in fact, become a litigator," says James P. Strenski, a 1994 law school graduate.
Through the clinic, Singleton's students are also introduced to lessons they would not be able to internalize in a lecture hall setting. "Each case moved from firm legal ground, where the student could help the client, to the further and more challenging reaches of experience -- where sometimes the lawyer becomes the learner and the client the teacher," says Patrick L. Baude, Ralph F. Fuchs Professor of Law and Public Service.
Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Professor of Law Julia Lamber sees the way both students and community members are affected by the students' services in the CLC. "The students' work touches the lives of community members at the same time it gives them valuable experience for their future and personal lives," she says.
And other professors, such as IU Professor of Law Aviva Orenstein, recognize Singleton's ability to guide students through their first cases. "Earl is a master teacher because he does not micromanage -- he allows the students to learn by doing," she says. "His careful guidance encourages the students to spot and try to solve legal, ethical, and interpersonal problems as they arise organically from the legal representation."
Singleton entered law school as an older student, married with two children, in hopes of making his and his family's life better. And although he came to IU with no idea of what his law career would look like, he knew he wanted to lessen the gap between law students' goals and practicing law. Singleton's work in more than 18 years of clinical teaching has had a double effect -- his time preparing students to practice law has also served the community's need for legal support for people who can't afford it.