UF Law’s Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic Prepares Students For Legal Careers
Name and Year: Catherine Nowak (JD 18)
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Undergraduate Institution: B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Entomology, University of Florida
Law School Involvement: Certified Legal Intern, Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic; Alternative Spring Break Co-Executive Chair 2016-2017, Senior Advisor 2017-2018; Florida Association of Women Lawyers President 2016-2017; No More Violence, No More Silence Student Committee Member 2016-2018; Association of Public Interest Law, Vice President 2016-2017, Senior Advisor 2017-2018; Run Levin 2016-2018
Walking into Levin on my first day of law school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my career: I wanted to work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Despite having this decided, I had no idea how I was going to gain the experience necessary to make this dream a reality. Luckily, my law school journey led me to two extremely valuable resources that have given me the skills, knowledge, and confidence that I need to feel ready to graduate and dive into my career.
The first of these resources was Erin Carr, assistant director for career development. Ms. Carr is the champion of public interest legal work, and the person to work with if you’re interested in public interest or government work. Throughout my time here at Levin, Ms. Carr has worked tirelessly to aid me in obtaining the best experiences possible to prepare me for my career.
My other major resource during law school was IPVAC, the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic. IPVAC is a multidisciplinary clinic run through the Virgil D. Hawkins Civil Clinics. It is the first clinic of its kind, bringing together the legal and mental health fields in order to more fully serve survivors of domestic, dating and sexual violence. Once receiving a CLI (Certified Legal Intern) certificate, students are able to apply to work in the clinic, working directly with clients and representing them in court under the supervision of Professor Teresa Drake, the clinic director.
Working in IPVAC is unique academically because students are able to gain real experience working on real cases.
When faced with a decision, instead of going to Professor Drake and asking what to do, Professor Drake asks the student what they think should be done. The student is then able to apply her or his legal training to the situation and decide what course of action should be taken. The student is able to work through problems with Professor Drake’s supervision.
Through my work in IPVAC, I feel confident and prepared to graduate and begin my legal career. I’ve gained experience working more straight-forward cases, as well as navigating through more complicated cases, all with positive results. Immersing myself in real legal work and leading cases has enriched my education more than anything else I have experienced in law school.