Students enrolled in the one-semester, 12-credit Family Law Concentration (FLC) will work 2 days a week in organizations that represent domestic violence survivors, parents in child welfare cases filed by the New York City Administration for Children's Services, and children in the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Division (in both protective and juvenile justice cases). Working within an interdisciplinary model with social work and other professionals, students will work on a range of issues such as child welfare/child protection, juvenile justice, immigration, custody, visitation, support, orders of protection, and other family law issues. Students may also engage in community education projects and/or work with community groups to advocate for reforms for families affected by state intervention, including the effects of mass criminalization.
Highlights of the Family Law Concentration
- Substantial client contact and opportunities for community education and outreach projects
- Assisting families in crisis to obtain needed services and public entitlements
- Representing parents involved in child welfare proceedings in the early stages of their cases with increased likelihood of keeping families together where appropriate
- Litigating the improper removal of children from their parents and identifying less intrusive solutions to family problems to help keep families together and help parents maintain safe and stable environments for their children
- Litigating on behalf of survivors of domestic violence to obtain custody, visitation, divorce, support orders, orders of protection, and adjustment of status through use of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) remedies
- Working with community organizations to provide culturally sensitive representation and to assist communities in stopping violence against women and to promote child welfare system reform
Typical Student Practice
Students may represent multiple clients in New York City Family Court and Supreme Court and before administrative agencies. Students will typically engage in a variety of tasks, such as client intake; fact investigation; interviewing clients and witnesses; obtaining and preparing documentary and demonstrative exhibits; analyzing and researching legal issues; drafting internal office memoranda, memoranda of law and various court papers; engaging in mediation and negotiation; appearing in court on behalf of clients; meeting with community groups and public officials; and drafting proposed legislation, regulations, policy papers and community education materials.
Collaborative, Interdisciplinary & Community Practice
The Family Law Concentration field placement organizations employ an interdisciplinary, team model in which lawyers work with social work professionals, parent advocates, community activists and other professionals to provide comprehensive services to clients. Working within this model, FLC interns will gain first-hand experience with the similarities and differences in the ways that the professions identify and solve problems. Collaboration with other helping professionals will enhance FLC students' counseling and inter-relational skills, and increase their understanding not only of the professional standards, assumptions and skill sets of the legal profession, but those of other helping professions as well. FLC students may also collaborate with other CUNY Law clinics around cross-cutting issues affecting various client groups.
In the classroom component students will become familiar with general family law doctrine such as divorce, custody and visitation, and child support, as well as concepts and laws relating specifically to domestic violence, child welfare, and juvenile justice. We will examine and critique the social and political dimensions of these practice areas, and explore the ways in which anti-oppressive lawyering practices, professional responsibility rules and ethical considerations can enhance the quality of our lawyering and promote positive outcomes for clients. Given the inevitable diversity of field experiences, all FLC interns will participate in a substantial in-class simulation to allow them to develop a range of lawyering skills that reflect and support their real-world practice experience.
During weekly rounds meetings, students will discuss the work they are doing in their placements. These discussions will provide opportunities for students to collaborate and generate alternative approaches to particular legal problems and consider related ethical and professional responsibility issues.
The complex interviewing and counseling work, as well as the in and out of court advocacy prepares graduates for practice in many settings. Students will be well-prepared for general family law practices and for child welfare, domestic violence, and poverty law practices, including family defense organizations that serve clients with issues arising in the context of criminalization. The lawyering skills cultivated in FLC will also prepare students for other practice areas including child advocacy, criminal defense, and policy advocacy. Graduates can expect to practice in a variety of practice settings including work in solo and small firms, legal services, child welfare organizations, battered women's and immigrants' rights organizations, policy and reform organizations and government offices.