In the Family Empowerment and Legal Access Clinic, law students develop the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for a professionally effective – and satisfying – client representation practice. Third-year students provide brief advice and limited legal representation to clients experiencing family law issues in Allegheny County. During their practice, students are supervised by clinical faculty and certified by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to provide legal services to pro se litigants.
Services to the Community
The Family Empowerment and Legal Access Clinic is a brief advice and limited services clinic. Students interview, counsel, and assist litigants involved in child custody, child support, and paternity disputes. Clients are eligible for services if the children at issue reside in Allegheny County and the client is low income. Clients may reach the clinic through a variety of paths including referrals from community service organizations and the Pro Se Motions Department in the Allegheny County Court Family Division.
Description of Seminar Component
The clinical seminars prepare students to succeed in their client representation and draw collective lessons from their fieldwork. Seminar intensity and frequency tapers as the year progresses. Prior to the commencement of the fall semester, the clinic meets for an intensive orientation session to lay the foundation for fieldwork. During the semester, students meet once a week for seminars devoted to a variety of topics. These topics include lawyering skills, substantive law, and the development of professional identity. As the semester progresses, seminars turn to rounds where students engage in group problem solving and skills practice. In the spring semester, seminars cover advanced family law topics and shift to drawing lessons from fieldwork.
Description of Fieldwork
Students in clinic 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 Allegheny County Family Division’s Pro Se Motions Court. Fieldwork is supported through rigorous supervision meetings conducted consistently and frequently during the semester. Students meet individually with clinical faculty on a weekly basis where they engage in case planning, strategizing and reflection.
The exciting and impressive responsibilities of transitioning to law practice in clinic can come with unpredictability and demands on a student’s time. Students are expected to complete 107 hours of fieldwork in the first semester for 2.5 credits, and 127 hours in the second semester for 3 credits. Students are encouraged to discuss any concerns they have with clinical faculty prior to registration.
Transcript / Awarding of Credits
Students must complete 2 semesters, with 4 credits being awarded each semester.
Eligibility Requirements / Prerequisites
To enroll, students must have completed four 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
Drawing from her expansive background in litigation and systems-solution building, Professor Adawi guides students in the clinic through individual lawyering growth to discover their potential for impact. Throughout her career, Professor Adawi has been actively engaged in training and educating other professionals, which she now carries forward in her role as a professor. Professor Adawi grew her roots as an educator as a Clinical Teaching Fellowship at the Georgetown University Law Center’s Domestic Violence Clinic. There, she taught and supervised law students engaged in intensive litigation, helping them develop their strategic thinking, counseling, and litigation skills.
Nancy Alemañy Alvarez, Administrative Assistant