Student Experience and Client Stories
THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
- “I’m a big believer in the value of hands-on work when it comes to gaining experience, so I knew I wanted to participate in a clinic while at Georgetown. After meeting with the Domestic Violence Clinic’s supervisors during [an] Open House and speaking with classmates who had participated in the DVC, preferencing this Clinic was an easy call—and that choice has been proven right by my experience this spring. *** While you will be the point person in three to four client representations over the course of the semester, you will be fully supported by a supervisor on each case, who will challenge you to think through your legal analyses critically, develop new strategies for client representation and team collaboration, and gain confidence in all parts of a direct-services environment. Most importantly, you will have the opportunity to provide direct assistance to a population that is often without many other resources or places to turn. Not every case will end in what you might have previously defined as “success,” but the lessons you learn will be applicable in near-real time, as you meet each new client, analyze a new legal issue (or issues!) and prepare your next case.” – Sarah E.
- “It’s hard for me to sum up what the Georgetown Domestic Violence Clinic has done for me. It was an opportunity to be in a one-on-one, intense learning environment with experienced litigators. I feel like my entire legal education happened in that one semester. But more than that, the Clinic gave me my only real insight into what it is really like to be an attorney dealing with real clients who have real problems. Whether you want to help victims of domestic violence or escape the boredom of classes or just get the best legal education that you can imagine, the Georgetown Domestic Violence Clinic is a semester well spent.” – Juley F.
- “The Domestic Violence Clinic is, and will be, one of my most memorable experiences at law school. The ability to work directly with clientele, especially local community members in vulnerable positions who needed my help to navigate tough situations, was both meaningful and incredibly fulfilling. I was hesitant at first to participate in the DV Clinic as a male, knowing I would primarily be working with females in domestic violence situations, but that feeling was quickly assuaged by both the professors and my clients. I am glad I signed up. Throughout the semester, I learned about empathy, understanding, and how to be a zealous advocate – skills that will continue to aid me throughout my career. Professors Epstein and Camp (alongside two great Fellows) ensured that I was able to maximize my education and experiential learning while also delivering top-notch legal representation to my clients. I will leave clinic knowing that I helped multiple people in need through tough times while also learning valuable skills and what it is really like to step inside a court room as an advocate. I would wholeheartedly recommend the DV Clinic for anyone who may be interested – male or female.” – Zachary G.
- “I had my first full out hearing/trial today. Opening. Two witnesses (client and client’s mother). Cross of Respondent and his witness. Closing.… THERE IS NO WAY I COULD HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT THE PREPARATION I GOT FROM CLINIC. I really want to thank you, not only for sharing your knowledge, but specifically for your continued encouragement and support, even when I have doubted myself. My client got a 1-year permanent injunction today and, maybe without even knowing it, you were a big part of getting this protection to her.” – Post-graduation email from former DVC student Maria S.
- “As many law students and lawyers know, it is rare for law students to have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the field of litigation and gain valuable experience representing clients prior to graduating law school. Given this reality, I applied to the Domestic Violence Clinic hoping to achieve just this. Yet, what I didn’t realize was how much I would learn in addition to the practical skills needed to be a litigator. I learned not only how to draft petitions and construct a closing argument, but also about the power of empathy, the value of being able to connect on a human level with one’s client, and the unique ability lawyers have to utilize the justice system in a manner that can provide an important means of relief for their clients. Ultimately, participating in the Domestic Violence Clinic has been a transformative experience and will certainly continue to impact and shape the kind of lawyer I hope to be long after I have graduated from Georgetown Law.” – Alexandra D.
- “The Domestic Violence Clinic (DVC) experience is the most valuable experience during my law school. I would especially encourage international students like me to apply for it. DVC provides unique opportunities for international students to have a deeper and better understanding of the American society and culture through intensive client communication and advocacy. In addition, you will meet the nicest professors, teaching fellows, and classmates in DVC.” – Junqi Z.
- “Working with Georgetown’s Domestic Violence Clinic gave rise to the most meaningful semester I’ve had at law school. Not only does it provide a much-needed service to the DC community, but it also bridges the gap between doctrinal teachings in lecture courses and the practice of law. Having gone through two trials this semester, I was exposed to trial practice and litigation in a way that could not have been simulated in a standard class. The DV Clinic philosophy promoted taking ownership over one’s work and pushing students towards a level of competence whereby they could handle their clients on their own. I highly recommend applying for a seat in the Domestic Violence Clinic.” – Christopher H.
- “This Domestic Violence Clinic taught me lessons that traditional law school classes simply do not teach. While most law school courses teach the blackletter law and may explore other related topics, they do not typically teach much about the practice of law – i.e. the day-to-day life of a lawyer. In clinic, you get a true sense of what it is like to be a trial lawyer. I learned first-hand that a good lawyer is not only an authority on the law, but a counselor to whom her clients can look to for support with trust and confidence. I learned how to counsel clients, some of whom were in dangerous situations and who were quite possibly going through some of the most challenging times of their lives. I learned how to have difficult conversations with clients about topics that are of the utmost importance to their everyday lives, without breaking the trust that has been established. And I learned what it feels like to win cases for clients – to provide them with relief that will change their lives for the better. In my opinion, for those students who really want to learn these lessons, law school courses simply are not a substitute for real-world practice.” – Rachel C.
- “The Domestic Violence Clinic was the best experience I have had in law school. I learned how to litigate a case from start to finish, how to develop a case theory, collect evidence, prep witnesses, write a direct and cross-examination, and appeared in court numerous times. But perhaps most importantly, I learned how to be a client-centered lawyer. I learned to make every decision putting the client first and my own interests last. I learned how to feel and express empathy and compassion, and to never, ever make assumptions about my client and her life experience and situation. This clinic also afforded me the opportunity to work with incredibly intelligent and fierce professors and fellows, as well as other peers with the same passion to protect domestic violence survivors. I can’t recommend this clinic enough for anyone who has a passion to empower women and learn to be a client-centered lawyer.” – Hunter H.
- “Participating in the DV Clinic was the best experience of my law school career. Through my clinic experience, I was able to put my education into practice, begin developing my lawyering identity, and contribute to the DC community in a meaningful way. There were certainly times where I felt overwhelmed by the work and the role I was taking on, but I had a tremendous support system in my clinic partner, the supervisors, and the rest of the clinic students. Ultimately, I grew personally and professionally through my clinic experience, and I’m so grateful for the relationships that I developed along the way.” – Katherine K.
- “Participating in the Domestic Violence Clinic has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at Georgetown. *** Within a few weeks of our first day of orientation, my partner and I were working with a client and preparing for a hearing, which involved fact investigation, counseling our client about her case and her safety, and drafting trial documents. *** The clinic gave me an opportunity to start taking steps to transition from being a student to being a lawyer, and in the course of my representation of [my] clients I have become more confident in my ability to make decisions and generate options to achieve the best possible outcomes for real clients. The DV Clinic also provided me with the chance to appear in a courtroom for the first time and to learn about and practice trial advocacy in an environment where I felt supported and extremely prepared. Finally, and most importantly, the DV Clinic gave me a chance to learn about an important issue and to provide representation and empower people who have experienced domestic violence. I highly recommend the DV Clinic to anyone who is looking for a way to transition from the role of student to the role of lawyer and who wants to form relationships with supportive, expert faculty and with other students while doing truly rewarding work.” – Kate D.
Former DVC Student Video Testimonials:
Angela – A team of student attorneys represented Angela in her Civil Protection Order case against Damon, her boyfriend of six months, after Damon assaulted her during an argument over who would pay for groceries. When Angela tried to leave Damon’s home, he followed her outside, pushed her into a parked car, and punched her hard enough that she lost consciousness. Though she was ultimately able to leave, over the next week, Damon sent Angela multiple text messages, threatening to kill her. The Clinic students helped Angela obtain a CPO that ordered Damon to stay away from her; not to contact, harass, assault, threaten, or stalk her; to reimburse her for medical expenses related to the assault; and to obtain counseling. Angela was also interested in pursuing criminal charges, so her Clinic student attorneys successfully convinced the US Attorney’s office to pursue an assault charge against Damon.
Destiny – Destiny and Eric had an on-and-off relationship for several years, during which they sometimes lived together. Destiny was employed as a sex worker, and Eric exerted strict control over her finances, demanding she turn over to him the money she earned. On nights when she failed to earn what he expected, Eric assaulted her with a belt and threatened her with a gun. During one argument, Eric threatened to kill Destiny’s emotional support service animal and punched her repeatedly. One morning, Eric woke Destiny up, yelling at her and waving a knife in her face, furious because she had slept on the sofa, rather than the floor, as he had ordered. When Destiny tried to leave, Eric pushed her down and strangled her. Destiny was able to escape, but was forced to leave everything behind. By the time she met with Clinic students, she and her dog had been without food for over 24 hours. The students secured them food and connected Destiny with resources to get clothing, including professional attire for a job interview as a store clerk– a job she ultimately obtained. Two weeks later, the students successfully negotiated with Eric and he ultimately agreed to the entry of a CPO that would keep him away from Destiny. During this process, Destiny was able to find housing and move into her own apartment.
Janae – Janae retained a team of DV Clinic students after experiencing severe psychological and emotional abuse at the hands of her partner, Mark. After an extensive interview, the student attorneys drafted a complaint that recounted three specific counts of domestic violence: an incident where Mark grabbed Janae by the throat, placed his hands over her mouth so that she couldn’t breathe, and shoved his knee into her back; an incident where, following an argument, Mark ripped Janae’s wig off of her head; and an incident when Mark was arrested for entering Janae’s home and destroying her furniture while her children watched. Following a contested trial, where the students conducted a direct examination of both Janae and the arresting officer, admitted photos of her damaged property into evidence, and cross-examined Mark, the Court awarded Janae a CPO that included a variety of safety provisions and awarded her custody of their children.
Joe – When clinic student attorneys met Joe at the courthouse, he had just been threatened by his ex-partner, Samuel. Joe had recorded the threat on his phone. With the assistance of his student team, Joe was able to file for a Civil Protection Order and obtain a temporary order requiring Samuel to vacate their shared apartment immediately. Over the next two weeks, the student attorneys entered into negotiations with Samuel’s attorney to resolve the matter short of a trial. Samuel offered to provide Joe with substantial financial assistance and to move out of the shared apartment, in exchange for Joe dismissing the protection order. Because this outcome achieved Joe’s goals, and because he was confident that this outcome would keep him safe, he agreed to the settlement and to dismiss his case.
Sylvia – Sylvia sought protection from her husband, Robert. Over their three-year marriage, Robert had become increasingly jealous, possessive, and violent. Whenever Sylvia left their apartment, he accused her of seeing another man; he frequently hid the keys to the car and the house from her so that she could not leave. He began to follow her everywhere. One night, after she had gone out for a few hours, Robert told her that if he saw her with another man, he would kill them both. He slammed Sylvia against the bed and held an iron over her head, threatening to kill her with it. Robert was a heavy drinker, and on previous occasions when he was intoxicated, he forced Sylvia to have sex with him, pinning her down on the bed. The day before she came to the Courthouse to seek protection, Sylvia had made the decision to leave Robert. As she began packing, Robert assaulted her in front of their 1½ year-old son. He then disconnected the phone and blocked the door of the apartment, preventing Sylvia from leaving. Finally, someone outside the building heard Sylvia’s cries for help and called the police. Robert was arrested, and Sylvia and her son fled to her sister’s apartment for safety. Domestic Violence Clinic students represented Sylvia in her CPO trial. After winning her case, the judge awarded Sylvia a CPO, directing Robert not to assault or threaten her or her child, to stay away from her, and to vacate the family home. Robert was also ordered to enroll in domestic violence counseling and substance abuse treatment, and Sylvia was awarded custody and child support.
Grace – Clinic students attorneys represented Grace in her Civil Protection Order case against her husband, Eugene, to whom she had been married for nearly a decade. The abuse Grace experienced included assaults and a series of actions by Eugene that, together, constituted criminal stalking. Several days after Grace filed her petition, Eugene filed a retaliatory cross-petition against her, a move that was part and parcel of his larger pattern of stalking behavior. The student attorneys successfully argued for the dismissal of Eugene’s petition, which failed to state a legal claim on which relief could be granted. Grace’s trial against Eugene took place over two days, during which the students completed an opening statement, a direct examination of Grace, a cross-examination of Eugene, and a closing argument. At the end of the trial, the judge granted Grace’s petition and entered a year-long Civil Protection Order on her behalf, ordering Eugene to stay away from and not contact, harass, assault, threaten, or stalk her and to vacate their shared home.
Matthew – Matthew shared an apartment with Jackson, a person he identified as just a friend. Following an incident where Jackson sexually assaulted him, Matthew immediately came to the DV Intake Center at the D.C. Superior Court where DV Clinic student attorneys agreed to represent him in his Civil Protection Order case. Matthew was also interested in pursuing criminal charges against Jackson and the student attorneys worked closely with the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutor. The civil case resolved with the issuance of a Civil Protection Order, ordering Jackson to stay away from Matthew and to vacate the shared apartment. The criminal case resolved with Jackson entering into a guilty plea to sexual abuse.
Leslie – Leslie’s husband regularly physically and emotionally abused her, including several occasions when he threw her to the ground and hit her while she was pregnant with their child. At one point, Leslie separated from her husband and he went into counseling to learn how to control his violence. But counseling failed to stop his behavior. In October, Leslie’s husband became angry and began to yell and shove her in front of their five-year-old son. The boy became upset and placed himself between his parents, yelling, “Don’t hurt my mother!” His father slammed the boy’s head and back into a wall. Leslie ended the relationship and her husband moved out of the family home. But several weeks later, he followed her out of a teacher’s meeting at their son’s preschool, grabbed her by the arm, and told her, “If I’m not going to have you, no one will.” In the weeks that followed, he repeatedly came to Leslie’s home and assaulted or threatened her. Terrified, Leslie was forced to take her son and stay with relatives. Eventually, Leslie was referred to the DV Clinic. After two contested hearings on issues of domestic violence and child support, the judge granted Leslie a CPO requiring her husband to stay away from her, not to assault or threaten her, and ordering him to participate in domestic violence counseling. The order also awarded temporary custody of the couple’s son to Leslie and directed her husband to pay more than $700 per month in child support.
*Names and minor details have been changed to protect client identity.