Domestic Violence Clinic Spotlight: Kathryn Moakley

Supervising Attorney

The Domestic Violence Clinic has a long history of supporting the local community’s efforts to serve survivors and offering invaluable experience to law students with a passion for advocacy. With this legacy at the heart of her decision, UO law alumnus, Kathryn Moakley, returned to Eugene in May of 2015 to take on the role of Supervising Attorney for the Domestic Violence Civil Clinic. Sitting down with Moakley to gain an understanding of her background and how it influences her work at the Clinic brings us around to what brought her back to this, as she put it, “funky” town.

Moakley, who graduated with her J.D. in 2005, enhanced her time in law school by clerking for judges in both Lane and Multnomah counties. During her work in Lane County, she was exposed to a variety of cases heard by a court of general jurisdiction, thereby gaining tremendous experience in the application of law and the practical aspects of the justice system. The following year, still unsure of her career’s precise trajectory, Moakley clerked for a judge in Multnomah County – a county with a dedicated family law bench – and it was there that she took interest in family law and advocacy.

After her clerkship, Moakley spent the next seven years in Portland working for Kliewer and Associates, with a primary focus on juvenile law. The majority of her caseload was composed of families involved with DHS and children entangled in criminal activity; approximately 60% of her clients were adults and 40% were children. During this time, Moakley took on a complex caseload, often involving parental rights and custody concerns.

Pausing momentarily to comment on the course of her career, Moakley emphasized that there are benefits to working in a large firm even though many students are inclined to shy away from large firms when they want to work in child and family advocacy. She encouraged students to take the opportunity to experience a large firm as it can offer a range of experiences that aren’t seen in public defense or other advocacy-specific practices. Moakley expressed gratitude for her time in Portland because it helped mold her into a well-rounded attorney and enabled her to step into her role at the Domestic Violence Clinic with a broad array of skills and legal tools at her disposal.

When asked about her decision to return to Eugene, Moakley laughed and commented, “Eugene has shockingly good food.” Beyond the initial praise for the local cuisine, Moakley mentioned that she was drawn to the opportunity to take on a new challenge, educate students, and benefit the legal community.

In discussing her work in the field of family law more generally, Moakley noted that, “The greatest personal struggle [of working in this field] is the need to do a lot of self-care to understand trauma and its effects as well as the effects of being secondarily exposed to everything that’s happened [to clients]. It’s important to learn how to put up good emotional boundaries for attorneys who are going into such emotionally charged work.” Moakley’s life shows how seriously she takes her own admonishment. Moakley maintains her emotional wellbeing by remaining focused on personal priorities; she takes time for her family and holds that time as separate from everything else. On her drive home at the end of each day, Moakley ritualistically switches from NPR to music in order to let her mind know it’s time to change gears.

This ritual has served her well. She has managed to preserve an energetic and optimistic nature – something that benefits her greatly as she steps into the role of teacher with UO law students at the Clinic. Moakley noted that this field needs fresh enthusiasm. One of the best parts of the job is “to work with students who are energetic and interested.” In fact, their orientation led Moakley to remark that engaging with students and hearing their thoughts on cases is like “having [her] eyes reopened.... [Their contributions] renew interest in the practice itself.”

On a final note about her goals and moving forward, Moakley stated that her priority is “helping students become meaningful attorneys and helping clients not to be abused by the system.” Moakley added, “Helping [clients] not be reduced to this one aspect of their life and this one reality” is a foundation for her work. She concluded, “If they leave knowing that they are heard, respected, and we’ve done what we can to meet their goals, then I’ve done my job.”

Also in this issue...

UO Domestic Violence Clinic Gets a New Home
Clinic Alumni Working With Survivors
Caroline Forell: The Best of the University of Oregon
Alumni Spotlight: Amy Hicksted
New Book by Professor Merle Weiner Discusses Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence Clinic Spotlight: Kathryn Moakley
Senate Bills 1571 and 1600 Will Help Survivors of Sexual Violence
How Survivor Advocates Can Avoid Burnout
Normal Jealousy or the Start of Abuse?