Access to Justice Clinic - Family Law
The Access to Justice Clinic – Family Law Division is a 2-credit Clinic that focuses on addressing barriers to justice in the family law system by providing information and guidance to pro se litigants, drafting pleadings and motions; representing clients in cases of limited scope; and mediating family law cases involving custody, divorce, legal separation, and child support.
In addition to learning in the classroom, students engage in lawyering work. Because students work with litigants whose schedules may be unpredictable, the workload may vary week to week. At DC Superior Court, students meet with and assist pro se litigants in their family law cases. This involves drafting pleadings and motions and discussing service and court procedures. Students enter limited representation agreements with clients to assist in drafting of complex pleadings and/or represent them in court for hearings. Students also participate in an innovative collaboration with D.C. Superior Court in which students serve as mediators for pro se parties seeking to resolve their family law matters. Students in the Access to Justice Clinic – Family Law Division leave this intensive clinical experience with insight into the court system, the role of a lawyer in access to justice, and the ways in which our system is justice and unjust. They also leave having engaged in lawyering work for litigants under the close supervision of experienced clinical faculty who seek to support students in their professional development, their lawyering skills, and their professional identity formation – all of which will serve students in their marketability and their job performance.
Students in this Clinic enjoy the same close supervision and mentorship that is a hallmark of the GW Clinics as well as the certification to practice as student-attorneys in DC Courts. The time commitment and scope of lawyering work involved in this Clinic, however, are far more limited than our traditional 4-6 credit clinic.
- Seminar & Supervision
In the 1-credit seminar, students focus on client counseling and interviewing, complaint and motions drafting, strategic thinking, ethics, and mediation. Classroom exercises prepare them for the legal work they will engage in. In the seminar, students also learn the substantive law they need to engage in their lawyering work. Finally, in seminar, students consider access to justice and how to reform our legal system to address bias, discrimination, and injustice. The seminar is taught collaboratively with faculty who direct the other divisions of the Access to Justice Clinic.
Students will meet with their supervisors on a weekly basis outside of the seminar to review and discuss case strategy and client counseling. Supervisors review and provide feedback on all documents and on all client counseling sessions. Supervisors will appear with students in hearings and negotiations. Finally, students will submit reflections on their performance and their case work.
- Information for Prospective Applicants
Students will be selected based on their potential to provide high quality, client-centered legal services to our client population. Faculty will consider students’ interest in and commitment to access to justice, family law, domestic violence law, and/or mediation. In addition, faculty will consider past experiences in working directly with less advantaged clients. Students who have not yet been able to explore these areas should not be deterred from applying.
Interested students must fill out the Uniform Clinic Application from the Law School's student portal website under "Clinics," where a complete set of application instructions are posted at least a few weeks prior to registration. Students may contact Dean Kohn or Professor Rogus at any time to discuss the Clinic or to ask specific questions. Permission of the faculty is required prior to registration. Students may not enroll in a Field Placement and a Clinic at the same time without prior approval of both departments.
- Time Commitment
This 2-credit clinic is intended to provide a clinical experience to students who may not have the ability to devote more credits or time to lawyering work. At the same time, students will be engaged in the practice of law, which can be unpredictable and demanding. Students will be expected to devote an average of 7 hours per week to their Clinic work. The work will ebb and flow during the semester, requiring substantially more work when working under a particular deadline and less work between deadlines. We ask that students be prepared to be as flexible as possible and that they understand that litigation schedules are often driven by judges and clients rather than by lawyers. Students are required to attend a full-day Orientation either the weekend before classes begin or the weekend after.