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Oct. 10, 2013 Volume 35, No. 8

School of Law’s Family Violence Clinic offers options

Besides its Veterans Clinic, which opens in January, the School of Law has five other clinics that provide first-hand experience for lawyers-to-be. The clinics cover criminal law, legislative issues, mediation, cases of possible innocence and family violence.

The Family Violence Clinic (FVC) is directed by law Professor Mary Beck. The FVC handles about 60 referrals for civil orders of protection per year, Beck said. Students obtain remedies for their clients in more than 95 percent of the cases.

Kim Anderson, associate professor at the MU School of Social Work and domestic violence researcher, said the work is important because of the emotional and physical toll that can stem from family violence.

“The victim often doesn’t have the power and control to leave, and even when the victim leaves, he or she might not be safe,” Anderson said. Many times “victims are literally leaving with the clothes on their back.”

Clients are referred to the FVC from police departments, shelters, courts, mental health centers and attorney’s offices. Family Violence Clinic law students contact the parties within 24 hours of receiving the case. Beck advises on their creating a safety plan, an action plan and a litigation plan for each client.

The safety plan might involve securing a place to stay with a client’s relative if he or she is in danger, or making sure the client has the children’s belongings gathered. An action plan might include contacting a local junior college to send an application for vocational training. The litigation plan is more complicated: identifying necessary information, investigation and research plans, and rounding up witnesses.

“Most of my students are incredibly enthusiastic and eager,” Beck said. “It’s one of their first opportunities to help someone who’s in need.”

For many students, it is their first experience with domestic violence. Anthony Cross, who received his JD from the School of Law in 2013, took part in FVC during the fall 2012 semester. 

“The first time you sit down with a client for a face-to-face interview and they start crying as they explain how their spouse or partner beat them, verbally abused them, or physically or sexually abused their child, it can be hard to hear,” Cross said. 

This story was adapted from MIZZOU magazine’s Web Exclusive piece “Lawyers in Training” by Marcus Wilkins.