Domestic Violence Clinic
The Domestic Violence Clinic provides comprehensive civil legal services to low-income victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking while educating University of Oregon law students in the skills required for client representation in a litigation-based practice.
The Domestic Violence Clinic is a partnership between the University of Oregon School of Law and local advocacy organizations (Womenspace, for survivors of domestic violence, and Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS), for survivors of sexual assault). The Clinic is in-house at the law school.
The Domestic Violence Clinic offers students the opportunity to participate in the Basic Clinic and the Advanced Clinic.
Students in the Basic Clinic represent victims whose abusers are contesting their petitions for restraining orders or stalking protective orders. Students interview clients and witnesses, obtain evidence such as police reports and medical records, participate in depositions and other forms of discovery, file motions and pleadings with the court, negotiate with opposing counsel, and ultimately represent clients in court. Through these civil protection orders, clients can obtain physical protection and no-contact orders for themselves and their children, custody of the parties’ children with provisions to ensure their safety during parenting time (if any) with the abuser, exclusive use of the residence, and emergency support.
Students typically participate in one or more contested hearings each semester. The expedited procedure for obtaining restraining and stalking protective orders makes these cases ideal for a one-semester clinical course. For example, the contested hearing must take place within five days if the respondent requests a hearing and children are involved. Otherwise, the hearing must be held within twenty-one days of a respondent’s request.
Students in the Advanced Clinic represent victims in a variety of other family law and legal matters, including divorce and child custody proceedings. These cases tend to be more difficult, and allow the students to draw upon their training and experience from the first semester.
The Basic Clinic has the capacity to accept eight students per semester. The Advanced Clinic can accommodate two students.
The Law Students’ Training
Law student evaluations of the Clinic have been extremely positive. Many students have described the Clinic as their best learning experience in law school.
Part of the program’s strength is the extensive instruction students receive on the substantive legal issues, as well as trial practice and procedure. This instruction and training comes from a variety of sources.
First, all students are encouraged to complete the Domestic Violence Seminar, offered in the fall semester by Professor Merle Weiner. The curriculum is designed specifically to complement the students’ clinical experience. The seminar covers the major legal issues that will be encountered by the students. Students are required to do legal research, make a presentation, and have the option of satisfying their law school writing requirement.
Second, while enrolled in the Clinic, students attend a class taught by Mike Quillin, the Clinic’s Supervising Attorney. The focus of the class is on the development of practical skills for client representation through readings and in-class discussion, as well as extensive mock exercises to prepare students for each aspect of litigation. Much of the class involves debriefing active student cases to allow students not directly involved in the litigation to suggest alternative strategies that address issues complicating the case.
Third, while involved in direct client representation, Clinic students receive one-on-one training and feedback from the Supervising Attorney who monitors their work. This interaction emphasizes interviewing and counseling, as well as pre-trial and trial practice skills.
Fourth, the students receive training from representatives of both Womenspace and SASS. At the beginning of the fall semester, community educators from Womenspace and SASS train the law students on the topics of domestic violence and sexual assault. The training emphasizes, among other things, how to deal with clients in crisis that have multiple needs.
Finally, in addition to full representation of clients during litigation, students participate in weekly counsel and advice client meetings at the local advocacy organizations. Students develop interviewing skills during these meetings and conduct legal research to address questions presented by the clients.