Experiential Learning

Students have myriad opportunities to learn while working in courts, law firms and legal service agencies. Opportunities include:

Family Law Clinic

Students in the Family Law Clinic represent clients in a divorce case and a domestic violence case. They interview clients, prepare all pleadings, prepare clients for court appearances, represent clients in court and take all other actions necessary on the clients’ behalf. Each week clinic students meet together for 3 hours as well as meet individually with the clinic director. The cases, class discussions, assignments and other clinic work will give students a good practical overview of how to handle various family law matters. Additionally, students gain an appreciation of how the actions, communications and judgment of a person handling a family law matter affect the well-being of each member of a client’s family, not only during the course of representation, but for years to come. At the same time, students should gain an appreciation of how race, gender and class affect outcomes. In order to fully participate in the Family Law Clinic, students should qualify for 711 certification (have completed 3/5 of the credits necessary for graduation). However, in special circumstances, students can take the clinic with fewer credit hours, but they will not be able to speak in court on behalf of their clients. Private practitioner Susan C. Haddad is the director of the clinic. The Family Law Clinic counts as a practicum for the family law certificate. It is a 3-credit one-semester course. Students wishing to apply for the clinic should contact Professor Haddad (schaddad2100@yahoo.com) or pick up an application at the clinic offices, 14 E. Jackson, Room 100.

Restorative Justice

The Honorable Martha Mills, the then supervising judge of the Parentage and Child Support Court, in collaboration with attorneys and long-time restorative practitioners, Peter Newman and Elizabeth Vastine, approached the center to offer cutting edge training for law students. In a skills based class, students learn to facilitate restorative circles in child custody and child support cases. The goal is to help families involved in litigation better communicate so that they can resolve their issues without court intervention. Through hands-on practice in class and opportunities outside of the classroom, students participate in the circle process as well as facilitate (“keep”) a circle to help prepare them to co-facilitate circle processes for families referred by the Cook County Parentage and Child Support Court in the future. Other applications of the circle process in areas such as juvenile work and divorce are in the planning stages.

As a pioneering court alternative program, the restorative pilot program has been the focus of workshops presented by attorneys Peter Newman and Elizabeth Vastine at the following conferences:

  • International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP) in Hull, England, October 2010
  • Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR) in San Diego, October 2011
  • Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) in Chicago, June 2012
  • Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR) in New Orleans, September 2012

In the past, the pilot team worked with law fellows to conduct interviews of circle participants and to compile case management reports for data collection purposes. Additionally, a law extern has worked with the pilot team to draft an article featuring the pilot and partnership for journal publication. Students have rated this innovative course as their favorite class in law school.

Student Feedback
"This course has been enlightening. As law students, we become so caught up in the traditional approaches to resolving legal disputes that we tend to lose sight of creativity and progressive thinking."

"I feel that I have learned things in this class that no textbook or casebook would have been able to teach me. The skills I have learned or improved are valuable in any area of the law and in my life."

Externships

DePaul’s Field Placement Program, an extensive externship program at the law school, offers service-learning placements in many public service agencies. The center secures placements for students seeking experience working on child and family law issues, including but not limited to: child abuse/neglect, elder law, juvenile justice, divorce, special needs, education, guardianship, LGBTQ, sexual exploitation, domestic violence. The program is open to 2L and 3L students and requires 180 hours of fieldwork per semester. Up to 3 hours of course credit is provided for this service-learning work. Students may complete 3 separate externships.

Family Law