Students provide free legal assistance on civil matters to survivors of domestic violence in Tuscaloosa County. Students are responsible for initial intake interviews, counseling, pre-trial preparation, and trial. The Clinic’s approach to domestic violence cases is a holistic one, encompassing not just protection from abuse orders but also divorce, child custody, child and spousal support, employment and debt issues, housing, property recovery, and other civil matters necessary to ensure that the survivor’s legal needs are met.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAW CLINIC
Preference for 3rd year students – students MUST be registered with the Alabama State Bar to receive a student practice card for the Clinic.
The clinic is offered for 4 credits and is a one-semester clinic.
Seminar: 1½ hour TBA
Case Rounds: 1½ hour TBA
The Domestic Violence Law Clinic (DV Law Clinic) was created for the purpose of addressing the significant need for legal services for survivors of domestic violence in Tuscaloosa County. The DV Law Clinic represents survivors of domestic violence in civil law matters, including protection from abuse orders, divorce, child custody and support, property division, benefits-related matters, and other legal matters as needed to help survivors escaping domestic violence.
The DV Clinic seeks to train law students through representation of clients to be effective, highly professional lawyers. Students carry and manage their own caseloads and have the opportunity to do hands-on legal work for real clients. Clinic students represent clients in courtroom hearings before judges, as well as in negotiations and mediations with adverse parties. Students spend a significant amount of time counseling and advising their clients, working to understand the client’s needs, and zealously representing the client’s interests against adverse parties. Students also have the opportunity to do community education and outreach, teaching the community about domestic violence and letting people know about the DV Law Clinic’s free services.
Highlights of DV Clinic Activities
The DV Law Clinic has served over 500 clients since opening in 2006. Clinic students conduct client intakes each week and carry their own caseloads, the size of which varies depending on complexity of cases, timelines, court location, the issues involved, and other considerations. Students have represented clients in court to obtain Protection From Abuse orders, divorces, child custody and support determinations, and division of property, debt and assets in divorce actions.
Who Does the DV Law Clinic Represent?
The DV Law Clinic’s free legal assistance is available to survivors of domestic violence who live in Tuscaloosa County. The DV Law Clinic partners with the Women and Gender Resource Center at the University of Alabama and Turning Point Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault services organization, which refer clients to the Clinic for legal assistance. The Clinic also receives referrals from District Attorney’s offices, court clerk’s offices, the state Department of Human Resources, and other domestic violence survivor service organizations in Alabama. In addition, clients come to the Clinic after hearing about the availability of legal assistance by word-of-mouth, through the Clinic’s outreach activities, or by having read about the Clinic in a local newspaper.
What Type of Work Would I Do in the DV Law Clinic?
Students in the Clinic provide free legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence on issues related to helping a survivor escape domestic abuse. Students participate in client intakes each week, interviewing potential clients who come to the Clinic seeking legal assistance. In the initial intake interview, students gather information about the potential client’s situation, including information about experiences with domestic violence, and work with the potential client to identify legal needs. Students then present their intake cases at a weekly case rounds attended by all Clinic students and attorneys. At case staffing meetings, students discuss their intakes, assess factual and legal issues, and are assigned cases. Clinic students have legal and ethical responsibility for their cases and, under Alabama’s law student practice rule, certified 3Ls may appear in court and handle motions and trials on behalf of their clients. Once assigned, the case is the responsibility of the student, but all students practice under a supervising attorney’s law license, meet on a regular basis with the Clinic attorneys to discuss their cases, and are supervised at court hearings by the Clinic attorneys.
Upon receiving a case, a student’s first task often is often to obtain a protection order against the client’s abuser. Many clients also choose to work with the Clinic to pursue divorce from their abusive partners or desire the Clinic’s assistance to address issues of child custody and support, property division, or other matters related to escaping the abusive relationship. Students have the opportunity to practice in Tuscaloosa County.
What are the DV Law Clinic Credits, Workload and Other Requirements?
The DV Law Clinic is a one-semester, 4-credit course. The Clinic prefers 3rd year law students, who must be registered as a law student with the Alabama State Bar well in advance of the beginning of the semester in order to receive the necessary student practice card. Students in this Clinic are expected to spend an average of 14 hours per week on class and casework. The coursework includes a weekly 1½-hour seminar and a weekly 1½-hour case rounds meeting. In the seminar, students learn the substantive and procedural laws related to domestic violence client representation and discuss the practice skills and professional responsibility issues relevant to their casework. In weekly case rounds, students present the week’s client intakes, discuss the potential clients’ cases, and share information and updates about current cases in order to discuss legal issues and strategies with Clinic supervising attorneys and classmates. Students in this Clinic work in teams and meet with the Clinic supervising attorney and director once a week.
About Elizabeth Whipple
Liz Whipple is a graduate of Georgetown University (1998) and the University of Alabama School of Law (2007). Prior to joining the clinical team at the University of Alabama School of Law in 2015, Liz was Director of the Domestic Violence and Guardian ad Litem Programs at the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. At AVLF, she trained hundreds of attorneys to represent survivors of family violence in protective order cases and to advocate for the best interest of children in high-conflict custody disputes. As part of the program she managed a collaborative, full-time walk-in facility at the Fulton County Courthouse to directly serve 1500 victims of intimate partner, elder and child abuse each year. Liz was formerly a staff attorney at the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless with a practice focus on family law and housing. Liz is the Interim Director of the Domestic Violence Law Clinic.
For more information, contact Liz Whipple at (205) 348-4960 or email@example.com.