Bridging the Gap: GW's Access to Justice Clinic's Impact on Legal Education

October 5, 2023

Student in classroom with professor

The Access to Justice Clinic was launched in 2021 in hopes of creating a clinical model that can pivot quickly to address community legal needs, student educational interests, and to take advantage of the expertise of GW faculty who may not traditionally teach in the Clinical Program. Involving a smaller time commitment, the Clinic gives students who are not able to devote the hours required to enroll in a traditional clinic the opportunity to represent clients in a more limited capacity. This fall, the Clinic has expanded to five divisions and offers students a wide range of practice opportunities. Students also meet regularly as a group, across divisions, to discuss access to justice, racial justice and equity, and to brainstorm ways in which to make our legal system more just. This semester’s divisions include:

  1. Education Access Advocacy Division. Under the direction of Dean David Johnson, this division focuses on representing D.C. Public School students in suspension hearings at the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. Our student-attorneys are preparing to meet their clients, develop their case strategies, and appear on behalf of their clients in virtual hearings within a matter of days after the initial referral.
  2. Family Law Division. Under the supervision of Professor Caroline Rogus and Dean Laurie Kohn, student-attorneys are supporting pro se litigants in D.C.’s Family Court in navigating court procedures and pleadings. Students are also representing family law clients by appearing in court, drafting pleadings, assisting with service of process, and providing counsel and analysis on complex family law matters.
  3. Nonprofit & Entrepreneurship Division. Student-attorneys are interviewing, counseling, and engaging small business owners and nonprofit leaders in the District of Columbia in areas such as employment law, contract review, lease negotiations and an assortment of corporate law matters. Students also are providing advice and referral information at a number of limited scope clinics across the city under the supervision of Professor Darryl Maxwell.
  4. Prisoner Civil Rights Division. Under the direction of Professor Stephen Saltzburg, student-attorneys are working with a team of lawyers to represent a father and step-mother whose 27-year-old son was murdered by another inmate while in pretrial custody in the Prince George’s County jail. The other inmate was recently sentenced for manslaughter in the son's murder and murder in an unrelated case. The student-attorneys are supporting the legal team as they prepare to file wrongful death/civil rights actions.
  5. Workers' Rights Division. Student-attorneys are well underway this semester and are interviewing, counseling and providing legal assistance to low wage workers in the Washington, DC area on issues such as wrongful termination, denial of leave from work, discrimination, misclassification, and access to unemployment insurance benefits. Under the supervision of Professor Robin Runge, students are also working with a local workers' rights non-profit to draft comments to submit to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Pregnancy Worker Fairness Act. Finally, students are developing know-your-rights materials about the reasonable accommodation process under the Americans with Disabilities Act.