Domestic Violence Project

Domestic Violence Project Overview

The Domestic Violence Project (DVP) introduces students to a variety of different forms of legal advocacy on behalf of victims of domestic violence and their children. DVP students co-enroll in Law 6688 and work in a range of domestic violence field placements which can involve direct representation or advocacy for individual clients; prosecution of domestic violence cases in state attorneys’ offices; appellate work with DV LEAP, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project housed at GW, and its law firm pro bono partners; or legislative and policy work for national or local domestic violence advocacy organizations. Students gain transferable lawyering skills while learning about social change lawyering and issues in domestic violence law. The course provides students an opportunity to engage in real-world advocacy for clients, cases, and policy, while also focusing on their own professional development, with ongoing mentoring from the professor through small group supervision and the exchange of journals and responses.  

Lawyering Experience

Student fieldwork in the Domestic Violence Clinic may include:

• Interviews with clients and witnesses, preparation of pleadings and testimony, and participation in trial work with local legal services, immigration and women’s rights organizations (Tahirih Justice Center, AYUDA);

• Working on national policy development and federal legislation, including researching and drafting legislation, attending meetings with other national public interest groups, and lobbying Congress under the auspices of a national domestic violence organization such as the National Network to End Domestic Violence;

• Working on issues relating to children, youth and domestic violence with Break the Cycle or other organizations;

• Working with Professor Meier and the non-profit organization she founded (the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project) on appeals in constitutional, criminal and family law cases in state courts and the Supreme Court, and pro bono lawyers from law firms;

• Working in the Domestic Violence Unit of a local prosecutor’s office

Collaboration with an Innovative Public Interest Project

As one possible placement, interested students assist Professor Meier on litigating appeals or other activities conducted through the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), a non-profit organization founded by Professor Meier and housed at GW Law.  DV LEAP was launched in response to the problems experienced in domestic violence litigation around the country. Despite significant legal and court reforms, women and children often fail to receive adequate protection from the courts.  Through Professor Meier and a network of law firms, DV LEAP offers appellate representation to parties or amici curiae in cases with important legal issues in order to ensure that they are fully considered.  It is also DV LEAP’s intention to further the creation of a body of well-developed appellate law that will enhance the litigation of domestic violence cases at all levels.  DV LEAP has an impressive record of success in the DC Court of Appeals, and with the help of students has filed amicus briefs in seven Supreme Court cases.


Domestic Violence Project Additional Information

Information for Prospective Students

Students are selected based on their interest in domestic violence issues, as well as any past experience and potential future aspirations related to the topic. An aspiration towards public interest work is also considered. Professor Meier tries to select students with different backgrounds and experiences, but a common desire to serve victims of domestic violence, a desire to learn about the issue, and the desire to gain invaluable experience are three important considerations.

Each semester, the clinics hold an Open House where each clinic’s faculty is available to answer questions, but students may also contact Professor Meier at any time for more information. 

Eligibility Information

2L and 3L students are eligible to apply.  There are no prerequisites, but some familiarity with domestic violence issues or domestic violence law is helpful. Family law and trial advocacy–either in the past or concurrently–can be useful. 

For more detailed information, please login to the Portal. A complete set of application instructions is posted a few weeks prior to the registration period for the upcoming semester. 

Information for Prospective Clients

The Domestic Violence Project does not accept clients for representation, as clinic students work in the field, on-site, and in local and national legal organizations. For potential assistance with appeals, visit DV Leap.


DV Leap Logo

DV LEAP 10th Anniversary Video

Learn more about DV LEAP.

Joan Meier

Faculty - Joan S. Meier

Joan S. Meier, Professor of Clinical Law

DVP Alumni

DVP Alumni Reunite

DVP alumni reunite at a recent national conference: from left, Tamaso Johnson, JD '12, Policy Director for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Bonnie Carlson, JD '12, Training and Technical Assistance Attorney, ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.