Full Representation Clinic gives students a full range of legal experiences

Published: April 2nd, 2012

Category: Feature, Students

Journals, advocacy teams, and externships are a few of the activities professors and other legal professionals recommend to law students to prepare them for entering the legal profession.

However, one of the most realistic and overlooked activities to prepare students for the legal profession are clinics offered by the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

UF Law offers seven clinics in total, grouped into three categories; the Virgil D. Hawkins Civil Clinics, the Criminal Law Clinics, and the Conservation Clinic. The Virgil D. Hawkins Clinics include the Family Law Full Representation Clinic, Gator TeamChild Juvenile Clinic, Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic, and County Court Mediation Clinic. The Criminal Law Clinics include the Criminal Defense Clinic and Prosecution Clinic.

113 students are currently participating in the clinics, serving over 1,300 members of the community each year.

The Full Representation Clinic is one of many clinics that offers students the rare opportunity to act as a lawyer for a client.

Through the instruction of Professor Jeff Grater, students take on real cases for real clients. During a semester, participating students interview and counsel clients; draft legal documents; conduct discovery; argue motions; negotiate; advocate at mediation; and possibly bring a case to trial.

Grater believes that while all of the clinics are helpful to students, Full Representation offers a unique opportunity for students to create contacts in the specific field of family law. However, for students interested in other areas of the law, Full Representation also exposes students to various aspects of civil litigation practice and teaches them about lawyering in general.

“(The students) are there to learn legal skills and work with professionalism,” said Grater about the educational value of the clinic. Although the Full Representation Clinic focuses on family law, the skills learned in handling cases are transferable to any area of legal practice.

Current clinic participants Christina Russo (3L), Katherine Mockler (3L), Suin Youn (3L) and Kelly Dunberg (3L) expressed their appreciation for the skills taught in Full Representation.

“I think the most valuable part of the clinic is learning pretrial practice,” said Mockler.

Russo agreed, “I think it is one of the most worthwhile things I have done in law school.”

The clinic experience not only benefits students, but provides a valuable service for the public by helping indigent clients through family law issues. Many clients are referred through Three Rivers Legal Services, which screens potential clients and sends case files to the clinic. Each student represents two to four clients at a given time.

Completing the clinic composes anywhere between 10 and 30 hours of work per week, depending on a student’s case load. During the week, students receive support from their fellow clinic members and Grater through a classroom component, office hours and team meetings.

“We are like a law firm,” said Youn about the team work and level of support found in the Full Representation clinic.

The family law cases handled by the clinic mainly cover divorce proceedings, including paternity, division of assets and debts, alimony and name changes. But clinic participants have also worked on cases covering everything from parenting to domestic violence.

This year, former clinic students were given the opportunity to continue with the clinic for another semester. According to Grater, the pilot program for advanced students allows second semester participants to continue to work on past cases and be a resource for newer participants.

Students interested in joining the Full Representation Clinic must take Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiation as a prerequisite. There is also a list of classes students can take to increase the probability they will be chosen for the clinic. Current clinic students recommend substantive classes, such as Trial Practice and Florida Civil Procedure, to prepare for legal issues that arise in cases.

Additional information about all of the clinics offered may be found at http://www.law.ufl.edu/clinics/. Students may also visit the clinic officers at 100 Bruton-Geer Hall.