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New Child Advocacy Clinic provides students unique opportunity

The Wake Forest University School of Law’s new Child Advocacy Clinic will give students a unique opportunity to represent children in a variety of legal settings.

The interdisciplinary course begins in the fall semester of 2010.  The clinic focuses primarily on the representation of children in three settings: deciding the custody of children in high conflict cases, deciding the custody of children in civil domestic violence actions, and representing children of indigent parents in issues involving the public school system.

Under the direction of the Children’s Law Center’s Iris Sunshine, students will study the various models for representing children – as lawyer advocate, as lawyer guardian ad litem, and as non-lawyer guardian ad litem – and analyze the ethical issues raised in the various settings. Students also study the procedural and substantive law involved in deciding the custody issue in both the family law and the domestic violence settings and in representing children in the educational setting.

Students work in teams of two on cases that have been referred from the district courts of the 21st Judicial District to the Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina and to indigent parents who have called the Children’s Law Center for assistance in discipline and other matters in the public schools.

Clinic students will interview the child, parents, teachers, relatives and others, gathering information and formulating recommendations. In the custody cases, clinic students present their recommendations to the court. For the educational matters, clinic students work with the Children’s Law Center in presenting a position to the school authorities.

Associate Dean of Academics Suzanne Reynolds described the Child Advocacy Clinic as the latest component of the law school’s larger effort to enrich the experiential learning available to students through its Applied Legal Theory – “Law in Action” program.

“We hope the new Child Advocacy Clinic will expand the collaborative learning experiences and match the law school’s goal of a more integrative learning experience,” Reynolds said.

The law school, under the direction of Dean Blake Morant, is expanding clinical opportunities, and exploring metropolitan externships and other methods of integrating the classroom with the realities of legal practice as part of the new program.

“Our students, our alumni, and even some prospective students are very excited about this new clinic and the new opportunities it will provide to help the children of our area.”