The Family Empowerment and Legal Access Clinic is a yearlong clinic wherein students develop critical lawyering skills through assisting and representing historically disadvantaged litigants in family law issues. The student assumes full lawyering responsibilities for their clients while under the supervision of clinic faculty. They interview and advise clients, conduct necessary fact investigation and legal research and draft related legal documents and filings. In some cases, students may negotiate resolutions with opposing parties or advocate for a client’s interest before the Court of Common Pleas.
To accomplish this, students participate in a weekly 1.5-hour seminar, and carry a caseload of both extended and limited representation matters. The extended representation prioritizes clients who face numerous barriers to engaging in the legal system such as immigrants, limited English speaking litigants, survivors of trauma and children. The limited representation matters are obtained through litigant interviews at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on Tuesdays or Thursdays mornings. All fieldwork is completed based on the student’s availability and the relative demands of the client matters.
Clinic begins with a pre-semester orientation in which students cover fundamental topics necessary to beginning fieldwork. The dates for this orientation are provided after registration for the clinic. The hours spent in orientation count towards the seminar hours for the semester. During the semester, clinical students meet weekly for a 1.5-hour class session. The seminar covers a wide variety of topics necessary to facilitate client representation: lawyering skills, application of Pennsylvania family law, and professional identity development. As the semester progresses, seminars are reduced to accommodate the demands of fieldwork.
Students will receive a grade at the conclusion of each semester, however, in the event that a student does not complete the second semester the student shall receive a W for the course, thus nullifying the grade for the prior semester. Students will receive 4 credits per semester.