New UConn Post Focuses On Hands-On Education
Chill has a history of working to make a difference in other people's lives. Even before he went to law school, he worked as a state youth officer at the Long Lane School, which was a residential program for the state's highest-risk juvenile offenders.
"I worked there for three years when I got out of college," Chill said.
His first job after law school was with the New Haven employment litigation firm of Garrison and Arterton. Chill said his desire to help individuals with their legal problems was sometimes limited by the overall demands of the job. "Even at a place like that, where you weren't billing hours, you had to carry a significant caseload," he said. "I couldn't put the time in on the small things that I wanted to do."
He left in 1988, when he saw an advertisement calling for an assistant professor to run UConn's mental health clinic. "That was my 'aha' moment," he said.
Typically, law students who participate in the clinics are put in touch with real clients who have legal problems but no resources to pay for an attorney. Chill explained that his students prepare briefs, depose witnesses and argue motions in court under the supervision of professors. "As long as the student is working under the supervision of a lawyer, and that lawyer is taking personal and professional responsibility for their work, there is no problem with rules governing practicing without a license," Chill said. "Students can do anything a lawyer can in court under the supervision of a lawyer."
Under his watch, students have argued cases in front of appellate courts and trial judges. "A lot of judges like it when clinical students are involved in a case in court, because they are often better prepared than some lawyers," he said. "It's a remarkable opportunity for the students."
In addition to teaching Legal Profession and Torts, Chill has published articles and been cited for his expertise in the area of child protection law. Through law school clinics, he's been lead counsel in multiple high-impact cases.
One of those was in 1998, when a clinic Chill ran filed an appeal in a case called Pamela B. v. Ment, which led to reform in the state's juvenile courts. At the time, children were being seized — without a hearing — by the Department of Children and Families from homes where there were allegations of abuse. In some cases, it was months before the parents could argue against the seizures in court.
After a challenge by Chill and his students, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the clinic, could, in fact, sue the state's chief court administrator over the policy to not allow hearings. As a result of that decision, legislators passed a law requiring immediate hearings when a child is removed from the home. "It was a very gratifying experience, and I became very passionate about parental rights as a result," Chill said.