Law students will represent clients through new family justice center

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s new Diane Halle Center for Family Justice will give law students the opportunity to represent actual clients with faculty supervision while earning school credit.

Funded by a $1 million grant given by the Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation, the center will give students hands-on learning experience, including working with students from other fields on issues surrounding family law.

“What is unique about this clinic is that law students, nursing students, social work students and students from the school of family and social dynamics will be working together in a more holistic way, to work on the variety of issues faced by victims of family violence,” law school Dean Paul Schiff Berman said.

An additional $1 million grant from NextCare Urgent Care will establish the NextCare Urgent Care Family Violence Legal Clinic within the Halle Center.

One of the ideas behind clinical legal education is to provide actual hands-on experience for students to represent clients under the supervision of a faculty member, Berman said, and most of the programs are credit-based courses.

“It is important that law students understand … that solving the legal problems their clients face will not be sufficient to really address the concerns the clients have,” he said.

ASU has been working with Sandra Day O’Connor’s foundation, O’Connor House, to create the center, which will also house a program on poverty and family well-being.

This program will allow students to do both hands-on representation and public policy research about issues of family law, veterans’ rights and child support, among other issues, Berman said.

The center will focus on four core projects: a family violence clinic, a juvenile legal assistance program, a human trafficking program and the Justice Bus program, which launched Saturday as law students traveled to Prescott to give residents pro-bono legal advice.

Marilyn Seymann, CEO of the Bruce T. Halle Foundation, said the issue of family violence is one the foundation is very concerned with.

“We’re always trying to pull multiple entities together to find solutions over a very difficult issue,” Seymann said.

Currently, ASU has 11 different clinical programs and this center will expand ASU’s commitment to hands-on clinical legal education.

“This kind of a comprehensive center for family justice with students from multiple subject areas working on a comprehensive range of family justice issues is really unique in the country, and we hope it will become a national model,” he said.

Reach the reporter at anatwood@asu.edu