By John T. Sylvester (3L)
On November 14, the Family Law Self-Help Clinic at TJSL opened its doors for the first of many bi-weekly sessions aimed at serving self-represented litigants in need of assistance in navigating the family law landscape.
The Family Law Self-Help Clinic allows low- to moderate-income legal services consumers to sign up for 45-minute appointments at TJSL’s on-campus clinic space located at 1155 Island Avenue. The consultation includes a fifteen-minute intake interview with TJSL student volunteers, who assist consumers in describing important facts, followed by a 30-minute appointment with a volunteer family law attorney who aids the consumer in pursuing his or her litigation needs.
TJSL alumni who practice family law have volunteered their time to staff the clinic. On November 14, Aaron Perry, Ben Aguilar, and Daniel Laguna staffed the inaugural session. A great number of other attorneys, alumni and other local practitioners, plan to volunteer their time in future sessions. The clinic has partnered with Becky’s House, a division of the YWCA of San Diego, in developing outreach to litigants who might need free services.
In addition to the clinic’s primary goal of serving the local legal community’s need for limited-scope legal advice regarding family law matters, the clinic also offers a truly unique educational experience for the students involved. TJSL’s Family Law Society, headed this academic year by President Jessica Carlson (3L) and Vice President John Sylvester (3L), coordinate the recruiting and scheduling of student volunteers.
After attending training sessions hosted by the volunteer attorneys involved with the clinic, students are given hands-on experience in client intake and interviewing skills. In addition, they are provided the opportunity to sit in with attorneys during each consultation. The opportunity to perform intake interviews helps students develop their client contact skills, and the observations provide an invaluable opportunity to observe the mechanics of family law practice firsthand. The sessions also give students and opportunity to develop relationships with alumni who practice family law locally.
The Family Law Self-Help Clinic will be held from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on alternating Thursday’s beginning in January. Consumers who meet the clinic’s financial criteria and need assistance with family law issues involving divorce, custody, visitation, support, property division, and anything else related to these matters are encouraged to contact the clinic at email@example.com to schedule an appointment.
Students interested in volunteering for the clinic can contact the Family Law Society for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.