About Children's Law
Lawyers who work on behalf of children do so in a variety of contexts, including adoption, defense of juveniles in juvenile and criminal court, child abuse and neglect (prevention policies/services or representation of children in termination hearings), prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases, school and education issues, representing parents in family law litigation (divorce, child custody, etc.), and representing children as guardians ad litem in family law litigation.
Lawyers in this area also work on developing and changing public policy in issues involving children, such as healthcare, education, economic justice issues affecting children, trafficking and international child labor issues, juvenile crime prevention and conditions of juvenile confinement, domestic violence, dating violence among youth, gay and lesbian youth advocacy, foster care, and immigration. Lawyer's representing children or working on children's law issues most often work for the government (in public defenders' or corporation counsels' offices) or in nonprofit organizations. Lawyers in private practice may represent children or be involved with children's law issues as guardian ad litems, in adoption proceedings, or in custody cases.
Children's law is a small and specialized area of practice, and students interested in this practice area are encouraged to become involved with children's law resources in the Law School, such as the Children's Justice Project.
Note: Whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand.
These are the core courses that employers expect a student interested in this specialty to have .
Students interested in this practice area should consider including one or more of the following courses as electives.
These courses deepen or broaden the skills and substantive information that a lawyer in this field needs and may also provide advanced courses for students interested in a specialty within this area of practice.
- Advanced Criminal Procedure
- European Union Law:
- Guardian ad Litem Practice in Wisconsin
- Lawyering Skills
- L&CP: Legal Aspects of Elementary and Secondary Education (Meets with Educational Admin.)
- Selected Problems in Family Law
- Oral Communications (last offered in 2014)
Clinics, Internships, & Externships
- Family Court Clinic: The Family Court Clinic is a clinical program designed to help make the legal system more accessible to low-income, unrepresented people with divorce, post-divorce, paternity, and restraining order matters. Students do not serve as advocates, but rather as facilitators/mediators, working with the parties to prepare cases for decision. Students undergo in-depth skills training in interviewing, counseling, and negotiations, and learn the nuts and bolts of family law.
- Family Law Project: Students in the Family Law Project represent incarcerated clients in family law issues, including divorce, paternity, child support, physical placement, and guardianship. Students gain hands-on experience in all aspects of the practice of family and civil law, including interviewing and counseling clients; examining and analyzing ethical issues; negotiating with an opposing party, opposing counsel, and/or a guardian ad litem; drafting court documents; interviewing witnesses; and preparing for and conducting court hearings. The Family Law Project is a three-semester commitment that may begin in the summer after the student's first or second year.
- Prosecution Project & Public Defender Projects: As part of the Remington Center's Public Defender Project and Prosecution Project, a limited number of students are placed in juvenile units of Wisconsin public defender offices or prosecution offices. The project consists of three parts:
- Three-credit spring seminar which provides an in-depth understanding of the role of the public defender/prosecutor in the criminal justice system, and a two-credit trial advocacy course (typically taken in the spring of a student's second year)
- Ten-week paid summer internship in a Wisconsin public defender or prosecutor's office
- Two-credit fall seminar devoted to reflection upon the summer experience (note: this seminar satisfies the Professional Responsibilities requirement)
Student Organizations & Related Activities
- Children's Justice Project: The Children's Justice Project brings together people interested in promoting justice for children and juveniles, including the rights of children and juveniles in the legal, educational, health care, and social services systems. The Children's Justice Project also offers a fellowship program to provide support for students working in the area of children's law during the summer.
Here are some of the full-time faculty who teach or have an interest in this subject area:
- Tonya Brito, Professor
- Michele LaVigne, Emeritus Professor
- Marsha Mansfield, Emeritus Professor; previous Director, EJI
- Leslie Shear, Professor; Director, Family Law Project
- Gretchen Viney, Clinical Professor; Director, Lawyering Skills
In addition to our full-time faculty, the Law School's adjunct faculty members — prominent practicing lawyers and judges — bring their specialized knowledge and experience to the classroom. Filter by "Adjunct" in the Law School Directory for a full list.