I have said this many times before, and maybe you heard me say it, but I learned more about being a lawyer in that one clinic than I did in the other three years of law school combined. That is not a knock on the UO, the classes I took were great for "thinking like a lawyer," as Prof. Vetri would say, and I did pass the bar on my first try without the aid of bar prep; but as far as practicing in court, making argument, and dealing with clients [probably the most challenging of the three], the DV clinic was where I learned, stumbled, and succeeding in providing direct access to justice to those in need. That is why I became a lawyer in the first place, and the clinic offered me an opportunity to apply that desire, but more importantly, to learn how to apply that desire into concrete and successful advocacy.
Since graduating from the UO in '99, I worked for over a year at the Lincoln County District Attorney's Office prosecuting domestic violence. I doubt seriously that I would have even been offered the job if I did not have that clinic experience, in part for the courtroom experience and in part for the experience in working with survivors of domestic violence. I left the DA's office to start my own law firm, specializing in the representation of survivors of domestic violence. As I am sure the clinic was, I was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of clients who needed representation in contested restraining orders, custody battles, and divorce. Aside from the divorces, I had experience in restraining orders and custody during my stint at the DV clinic. I was able to "hit the ground running" when I opened my practice, and the phone rang off the hook when I offered pro bono representation for all contested restraining through our local women's violence intervention program. After 2 and a half years of this, I began to expand my practice and diversify into other fields of law. I truly owe my start in the practice of law as well as the fulfillment of my objective in becoming an attorney from the opportunities presented to me through the DV Clinic.
The DV clinic was a very positive experience. The clinic was one of the very few classes in law school that helped students build skills necessary to prepare them for the reality of practice. More importantly it helped fulfill a true need in the community. I believe it helps young lawyers not only gain practice skills but also the confidence necessary to obtain success and provide assistance to the client. It has been very helpful in dealing with family dynamics in divorce, child custody cases and guardian ad litem work.
Participation in the DV clinic and being a volunteer victim advocate has enabled me to provide support to women who have come to me in crises, whether through the practice of law or in a private setting. Often times the thorough understanding of this topic has allowed me to understand and reach people who would otherwise not be receptive to help. It has been particularly useful in divorce, child custody cases and the work that I have done as a guardian ad litem for children.
I would highly recommend law students participate in the DV clinic to gain practical skills and to fulfill the need for such assistance in the community.