Students in the Domestic Violence Clinic (DVC) represent victims of intimate abuse in civil protection order (CPO) cases in the D.C. Superior Court. Through on-the-ground client representation, individual supervision, and seminar-based simulations and exercises, students learn to engage in client-centered advocacy, develop strong trial and negotiation skills, obtain a thorough understanding of family, criminal, and poverty law, and provide representation in an area of substantial community need.

The CPOs Clinic students obtain for their clients may include a broad spectrum of relief designed to effectively end the abuse in an intimate relationship. A CPO may order the respondent to stop assaulting and threatening the client, to stay away from her, her home, and her workplace, vacate her residence, and not to contact her in any manner. The order also may resolve family law issues, including an award of temporary custody of the parties’ children, visitation rights for the non-custodial parent, and child support awards. Other commonly-litigated issues include reimbursement for injury-related medical bills and property damage, referrals to appropriate counseling programs, and the surrender of firearms.

Students in the Clinic serve as lead counsel for their clients. They learn to excel in every phase of expedited civil litigation. Students gain expertise in trial advocacy and the law of evidence; a typical case involves the introduction of photographs, text messages, 911 calls, and/or medical records at trial. Clinic students learn a systematic approach to lawyering involving careful planning, practical engagement, and critical post-performance reflection, and internalize both a valuable method for long-term professional improvement and essential skills that transfer across a wide variety of practice areas.

The DVC’s educational and legal mission is to:

  • Provide law students with an intensive, challenging education in the art of trial advocacy;
  • Provide high quality, client-centered representation to indigent survivors of domestic abuse.

Clinic students develop a wide range of essential lawyering skills, including:

  • Providing highly effective client representation;
  • Becoming creative, independent thinkers;
  • Developing habits to unpack assumptions, foster curiosity, and understand the impact of trauma; and
  • Increasing the effectiveness of civil interventions and helping clients navigate whether to engage with the criminal legal system.

We pride ourselves on creating a warm and supportive community in the DVC. Faculty provide both the educational scaffolding and the practical feedback students need as they make the transition from law student to practicing attorney. We are also fully conscious of our broader mentoring role: we invest ourselves and our time in each of our students, we are dedicated to helping our students find their individual lawyering voice, and we are available to our students long past graduation and into their lawyering career. Our students are committed to each other as well; every semester, there’s a real sense of family in the DVC.