Fall 2023 • Clinic
Family Justice Clinic
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Enrollment in this clinic will fulfill the HLS JD pro bono requirement.
Required Class Component: Family Justice Clinical Seminar (2 fall classroom credits). This clinic and course are bundled; your enrollment in this clinic will automatically enroll you in the required course.
Additional Co-/Pre-Requisites: None.
By Permission: No.
Add/Drop Deadline: August 18, 2023.
LLM Students: LLM students may apply to the clinic through the LLM General Clinic Application.
Placement Site: WilmerHale Legal Services Center (Jamaica Plain).
The Family Justice Clinic (FJC) provides students the opportunity to engage in community lawyering to both improve outcomes on individual cases and to effect systemic change. FJC embraces the need to evolve our legal advocacy to fight systems of oppression. In this spirit, FJC is practicing in the emerging field of early family defense, providing lawyers to individuals facing early-stage involvement with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Early family defense utilizes a range of advocacy tools to build power and shift the coercive relationship between clients and the carceral state.
Legal advocacy in this space includes representation of clients when they are under DCF investigation for abuse and neglect allegations. If an investigation leads to a supported finding of abuse or neglect, FJC can provide representation in the fair hearing administrative appeal process to challenge this finding. In addition, students can help clients navigate problematic surveillance and monitoring by DCF under the guise of providing supportive services. Students in FJC will also develop community legal education programming to expand access to know your rights information.
In addition to early family defense representation, students will litigate family law cases with a focus on serving survivors of intimate partner violence. Through the Passageway Health Law Collaborative (PHLC), students will learn to work within an interdisciplinary model with social workers at Mass General Brigham. Litigation opportunities can include a mix of divorce, child custody, paternity or abuse prevention cases. Case assignments take into consideration each student’s expressed areas of interest.
Under close supervision of a clinical instructor, students manage all aspects of their assigned cases including counseling clients, conducting factual investigation and legal research, developing case strategies, conducting and analyzing discovery, and drafting pleadings. Oral advocacy opportunities include conducting administrative hearings (direct and cross-examinations), appearances in Family and District Courts for motion hearings, restraining orders, pre-trial conferences, and/or status conferences. Students negotiate directly with opposing attorneys, pro se opponents, and in dispute resolution sessions. In the few cases scheduled for full trial, students may conduct depositions, develop witness and exhibit lists, trial strategies and trial notebook, prepare and conduct witness examinations, make opening statements and closing arguments, and/or draft post-trial briefs and memoranda.