By Allison Nichols, '13
A typical week in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic involves hands-on experience as the lead attorney on a child welfare case, from client interaction, to research and writing, to court experience. It also involves theoretical and practical discussions about important legal and policy issues with professors who are experts in their fields. Practicing real law, with real clients, is rarely predictable. It can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking. But, participating in CALC is also the best thing I've done in law school. Here's why:
Monday, 2 p.m. I am sitting in a seminar room in South Hall, discussing the relationship between substance abuse and mental illness with a professor from the School of Social Work. The discussion carries over as we leave the room after class, and another student and I debate whether drug dependence automatically renders someone an unfit parent.
Tuesday, 11:15 a.m. I am reviewing comments from my supervisor on my draft of a motion in limine. I turn to the computer bank in the CALC office for some additional legal research to plug the holes he identified. Time is pressing; I have to file and serve the motion by the end of the week.
Wednesday, 7:45 p.m. I am jumping rope and singing the ABCs with my two-year-old client as my partner talks with her grandparents in the next room. A few minutes later, I sit down with my client's aunt to interview her about the family's involvement with Children's Protective Services—all while coloring pictures of Disney princesses.
Thursday, 8:30 a.m. My partner, our supervisor, and I arrive at the courthouse for a hearing. I listen to the attorneys whose cases are called before ours and try to pick up some tips. Then it's our turn. I walk to the podium, take a deep breath, and address the court on the record for the first time.
Friday, 4 p.m. One of my clients, a mother of three, calls in a panic because she can't find the social worker who is responsible for supervising the children's scheduled visit with their biological father. We come up with a strategy for how to handle the situation—who to call and what to say.
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