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Spring 2023 Clinic

Litigating in the Family Courts: Domestic Violence and Family Law Clinic

Enrollment in this clinic will fulfill the HLS JD pro bono requirement.

Required Class Component: Litigating in Family Courts: Domestic Violence and Family Law Clinical Seminar (2 spring 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: December 2, 2022.

LLM Students: LLM students may apply to the clinic through the LLM General Clinic Application.

Placement Site: WilmerHale Legal Services Center (Jamaica Plain).

Students in the Family/Domestic Violence Law Clinic work directly with clients in matters of divorce, custody and visitation, abuse prevention, paternity, child support, guardianship, and second parent adoptions. Under close supervision of the clinical instructor, students manage all aspects of a family law case, including counseling clients, conducting factual investigation and legal research, developing case strategies, conducting and analyzing discovery, and drafting pleadings. In addition, students may have multiple court appearances in both Family and District Courts for motion hearings, restraining orders, pre-trial conferences, and/or status conferences. In addition, students negotiate directly with opposing attorneys, pro se opponents, and in court-mandated “dispute resolution” sessions. In cases scheduled for full trial, students conduct depositions, develop witness and exhibit lists, trial strategies and trial notebook, prepare and conduct direct- and cross-examinations of witnesses, make opening statements and closing arguments, and/or draft post-trial briefs and memoranda. Students may also have the opportunity to prepare and present trainings and workshops on relevant legal issues to health care providers and domestic violence advocates.

The Clinic addresses issues of custody, visitation, child and spousal support, health and life insurance, and the equitable division of marital property and debt in the context of divorce, paternity, modification, contempt, guardianship, and adoption actions.

In addition, the Clinic focuses on abuse prevention, safety, and making sure that domestic violence is not a barrier to a client’s legal rights regarding custody, property division, and other aspects of family and domestic relations.

The Clinic also provides some direct legal services to the LGBT community, with a particular emphasis on family-related legal issues, such as custody, support and visitation, and second-parent adoptions.

In addition to direct legal services, the Clinic actively participates in creating systemic change and policy reform to ensure safety for domestic violence victims and survivors, and to improve overall justice in the field of domestic relations.

Due to the litigation emphasis of the clinics and court-related schedules, students are strongly encouraged to enroll for 4 or 5 clinical credits, however, students who can only enroll for 3 credits will be accommodated.

Please keep in mind that most court hearings and trials take place starting at 8:30 or 9am. It’s recommended that you arrange your schedule to have as much morning availability as possible, in order to maximize your court-related opportunities. In addition, having a block of three or more hours is better than trying to come to the Center for fewer hours at one time.