The Civil Practice Clinic (CPC) is a general practice law office that is designed to serve the legal needs of financially eligible District of Columbia residents and those with cases in D.C. courts. The caseload of the clinic encompasses a range of civil law matters, including housing, consumer, family, probate, employment, and public benefits. Students have the opportunity to learn the personal and professional skills involved in providing client-centered representation.
In addition to the time spent in the clinic on case-related work, students participate in an intensive course seminar. The seminar prepares students to represent clients and includes sessions on substantive areas of law; participatory exercises in interviewing, counseling, negotiation, and selected aspects of trial techniques; as well as discussions of ethical considerations, statutory developments, and the clinic's current cases.
CPC is open to all 2nd and 3rd year students and there are no course prerequisites. Students earn 6 credits and commit 20 hours per week to clinic seminar and case work. With permission, students may be permitted to reenroll in CPC for a subsequent semester for 3 credits or for 1 credit.
In addition to individual representation, Columbus Community Legal Services works hard to respond to both immediate and systemic issues that affect the community. Below are a just a few of the pro bono, community education, and advocacy projects that CPC students are engaging in this year.
D.C. Superior Court, Small Claims Self-Help Center
The Columbus School of Law was part of an initial work group challenged with devising a way to assist self-represented parties in small claims matters. As a result, Civil Practice Clinic students have staffed the Small Claims Resource Center at D.C. Superior Court every semester since fall 2006. Under the supervision of Professor Faith Mullen, students talk to self-represented litigants about how to present their cases in court, help them prepare pleadings, and refer them to legal service providers. Students assist an average of twelve self-represented litigants each morning they staff the center.
*Note: Students who are not enrolled in the Civil Practice Clinic may also participate in this pro bono project after attending a brief training session. Interested students should contact Professor Mullen at Mullen@law.edu.
D.C. Superior Court, Child Support Legal Services
The Civil Practice Clinic is a founding community partner of the Child Support Community Legal Services Project at D.C. Superior Court. The project was initiated to provide limited legal assistance and advice to pro se litigants with paternity and child support matters. Teams of students, under the supervision of Professor Stacy Brustin, conduct interviews, review documents & provide information and limited advice to unrepresented litigants. Students have the opportunity to integrate their knowledge of family law and their skills in interviewing and counseling. More importantly, the students see, firsthand, how lawyers can use their expertise to expand access to justice. Several students have enjoyed the experience so much that they have returned to the project as volunteers once their clinic experience ended. The project is run by the D.C. Legal Aid Society and Bread for the City and funded by the D.C. Bar Foundation
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