Family Law Clinic

General Description

The Family Law clinic assists indigent pro se litigants with family-law issues primarily involving custody, child support, and paternity, as well as secondary family-law issues.

Students who have completed three semesters of law school may enroll, and will be certified by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to provide legal services, including appearing in court on behalf of indigent litigants. The clinic is a two-semester course. The student receives a total of eight credits for the two semesters.

Services to the Public

The public may access clinic services only by and through participating in the Allegheny County Family Court Pro Se program. Only litigants who are declared indigent by the pro se program are eligible to receive clinic services.

Persons seeking legal assistance from the clinic must report to the Family Court building on Ross Street in downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday or Thursday mornings to enter the pro se process. Litigants must bring proof of their current income from any source. Once the litigant meets all of the court's requirements for the pro se program, the litigant will meet with a law student.

Description of Fieldwork / Client Representation

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, students report to the Family Court Building in Pittsburgh. Students interview indigent litigants, determine the relevant legal issues presented by the litigants, and prepare motions to be presented to the court and/or non-motionable pleadings to be filed by the litigants—whichever is indicated by the facts and law. Certain motions prepared by the student will be presented by the student for argument before the assigned judge on a later date.

The goal of the Clinic is to provide students with live-client experiences in order to teach students the skills of interviewing, drafting pleadings, and advocating before the court. Typically, over two semesters the clinic interviews more than 350 clients and makes more than 70 court appearances, providing each student with an intense skills experience. The fieldwork time requirements are critical, and therefore students are cautioned prior to registration to carefully study the course time requirements set forth in the course description before attempting to enroll.

Description of Classroom Component

For first-semester students there is a weekly class component with the classes "front loaded" to teach the students both substance and procedure so as to hasten their start date in the court. The classroom component also includes an introduction to family law mediation techniques. For all clinic students there is also a weekly case rounds meeting, where current cases are discussed and preparations for upcoming court presentations are finalized.

Credits

8 credits

Transcript / Awarding of Credits

Students must complete 2 semesters, with 4 credits being awarded each semester.

Extension

No.

Eligibility Requirements / Prerequisites

To enroll, students must have completed three semesters of law school and must have taken the basic 3-credit Family Law course prior to enrollment. Also, a student wishing to enroll must:

  • Attend one of the clinic orientation meetings scheduled each term prior to registration, or
  • Schedule an individual meeting with the clinic professor prior to registration, if the student cannot attend either of the mass orientation meetings.

Application Procedure and Selection Basis

Enrollment is through the random registration process of the law school. Students must enroll for two semesters unless otherwise approved by the professor. Students selected for their first semester are automatically guaranteed enrollment in their second semesters, although they still must register for the second semester.

Faculty / Staff

H. J. Gruener, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law

Nadine Hamlett, Administrative Assistant