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The Family Law Clinic: A Student Advocate’s Perspective

Working within the Temple University Legal Aid Office, Family Law Clinic has been, without a doubt, my most rewarding experience in law school. Temple’s Family Law Clinic gives law students the opportunity to work as a legal advocate for clients under the supervision of an attorney and law professor. This gives a student, who may have no prior legal work experience, an opportunity to work within a law office, as a certified legal intern. A certified legal intern works along side the supervising attorney interviewing and counseling clients, drafting and filing documents, negotiating with opposing parties or opposing counsel, and going to court and arguing on behalf of the client.

Clinical work is supplemented with an academic course, in which students are taught substantive family law, complete case rounds, and discuss any issues or interests that may come up as a result of working within the clinic. What sets the Family Law Clinic apart from a typical law school course, an internship, or an externship, is the combination of academic study and practical application. For a practical learner, like myself, this really made learning the substantive law enjoyable and much easier than in other courses I have taken. Additionally, I found that having a law professor as your supervising attorney made learning the substantive material and application smoother, easier, and more enjoyable.

In the office and in the classroom students are able to ask questions freely and are guided on how they are handling their cases. Having had no prior legal work experience, I found this academic and professional combination perfect. I was independent enough to make decisions and work effectively, but also had the security and guidance of a supervisor who was also my teacher. Anyone who has started a new job knows the anxiety of “not knowing what they are doing.” In the Family Law Clinic this isn’t really a worry. It is expected that you are a student without experience in the area. The goals are to assist clients and teach students how to become effective advocates. With excellent guidance and support, while being Temple Law students, you get the hang of it remarkably fast.

The most rewarding aspect of working within the Family Law Clinic is assisting clients. The Family Law Clinic assists low-income residents of Philadelphia with family law issues such as custody, adoption, and support. Often, you are assisting people who could not otherwise afford counsel or effectively navigate the courts themselves. Often the clients are facing extremely difficult life situations and your effective advocacy and counseling truly make the difference for the clients and their families.

I would recommend this clinic to students who enjoy hands on learning, are interested in assisting people, and want to gain courtroom experience. There are a limited number of ways in which a law student can gain courtroom experience before graduating. Mainly, this experience is gained over summer internships and, depending on the internship, may be limited. This clinic offers students the opportunity to actually represent clients in court, as a certified legal intern, under the supervision of an attorney. This allows students to prepare and practice trial advocacy. This work includes counseling and preparing their clients and witnesses, forming and delivering openings, directs, crosses, and closings, and practicing courtroom decorum including presenting and entering evidence, making necessary objections, and even things like where to sit and when to stand or speak. This experience allows students to discover if they enjoy trial work or working directly with clients.

Alysha Clarke LAW ’18

The Family Law Clinic, through the work of its certified legal interns, supports and assists the Philadelphia community while giving law students the opportunity to learn and gain valuable experience. The Family Law Clinic is an invaluable member of the legal community and has certainly been a critical component of my learning at Temple University Beasley School of Law. In the two semesters I have worked within the clinic, I have had the honor of assisting numerous clients, which fulfills me in a way I simply cannot put to words. I am very grateful for the experiences I have had as a result of working within the clinic, and encourage all Temple law students to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

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