The Families and the Law Clinic (FALC) is designed to help students develop lawyering skills through practical experience, to take on cases of domestic violence, family law, and immigration law. By representing persons who would otherwise proceed pro se, FALC students gain hands-on experience while learning the dynamics of domestic violence and poverty.
FALC students help their clients address immediate safety needs and assert their legal rights by obtaining emergency temporary and civil protection orders (CPO). Students also represent clients in longer-term litigation arising from their abusive family situations, including resolving complex divorce, legal separation, property and debt distribution, child custody, child visitation, and child support matters. Additionally, students are able to respond to the unique needs of immigrant victims of domestic violence, helping them to attain legal status and employment authorization through VAWA self-petitions, battered spouse waivers, and U visa applications.
Clinic students have full responsibility for every aspect of their cases. Under the supervision of experienced attorneys, FALC students may draft legal memoranda and pleadings, prepare and argue motions, and conduct trials before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Through this experience, students are able to refine writing and research skills, and to develop effective trial techniques and other lawyering skills, such as counseling, interviewing, and negotiation.
As part of the Families and the Law Clinic, students attend a weekly seminar that includes lecture, discussion, participatory exercises, and simulations that cover a variety of topics in family law, poverty law, immigration law, and professional responsibility. Throughout the semester, students are provided numerous opportunities to share their insights about their cases and clinical experiences, to group strategize, and to further develop advocacy and litigation technique. The course culminates in a mock trial where students prepare and carry out an entire case from beginning to end in front of a judge.
In addition to their caseload, students participate in various community education projects and engage in policy work designed to address systemic social problems associated with domestic violence. Students often volunteer at the D.C. Superior Court Self-Help Center, staff local free walk-in legal clinics, and provide free legal information to domestic violence survivors at a local emergency shelter.
FALC 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 (including the weekly class seminar). With permission, students may be permitted to reenroll in FALC for subsequent semester for 3 credits or for 1 credit. Students interested in enrolling should keep their schedules clear on Thursdays to accommodate potential court appearances and other related obligations.
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 students are engaging in this year.
D.C. Superior Court, Family Court Self-Help Center
The Family Court Self-Help Center is a free walk-in service for unrepresented individuals at D.C. Superior Court. Several times each semester, students volunteer at the Family Court Self-Help Center to provide general legal information and assistance with preparing court filings to visitors involved in a variety of family law matters. Students may perform tasks such as reviewing and preparing pleadings and motions, providing information on hearing preparation, remedies, evidentiary issues, and providing referrals to other legal and social services agencies.
Domestic Violence Shelter Legal Clinics
Students from the Families and the Law Clinic conduct periodic legal information and referral clinics at a local domestic violence emergency shelter to educate and inform survivors about their legal rights and answer any questions they may have. CCLS hosts an annual fundraiser to be able to provide lunch and informational materials to the survivors and their families who attend the clinics.
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