Family Court Clinic

Info for Students

FCC'S Educational Mission

The educational mission of FCC is to expose students to the range of challenges facing unrepresented (pro se) litigants in the court system, to train students in legal research and analysis, drafting, negotiation, litigation, and other skills, while also engaging them in a critical inquiry into the role of law and lawyers in redressing economic injustice and inequality. FCC students work under a clinical law professor's close supervision, and gain experience in client interviewing, counseling, mediation, and drafting legal documents while developing a practical understanding of Wisconsin's divorce process. The students also critically evaluate the various responses of the justice system to the needs of pro se litigants.

What do FCC Students Do?

  • Observe court hearings and mediations
  • Assist unrepresented family law litigants with completing forms, and understanding the court process in a particular case
  • Develop and use written materials to guide litigants and to use in educational workshops
  • Provide individual representation in selected cases
  • Partner with the Neighborhood Law Project to offer community education, forms and guidance at neighborhood sites

Classroom Component

In addition to weekly hours spent at the courthouse, at neighborhood sites and in individual supervision, FCC students participate in a weekly seminar. The seminar includes materials on: (1) the substantive topics students will encounter in their work; (2) skills development in interviewing, mediation, counseling, and writing; (3) issues pertinent to the substantive topics such as ADR, the use of interpreters in the courts, the role of the guardian ad litem and abuse issues in divorce; (4) issues related to pro se representation and innovative methods for providing legal services. Students will participate in simulated case studies and exercises for training purposes on interviewing, counseling and negotiations. The weekly seminar also provides an opportunity for students to brief each other on their case work and to brainstorm new approaches to case related issues and projects.

Registration

FCC operates a full-time summer clinic for seven credits and a summer stipend, followed by a two-semester program for fewer credits. For more information, stop by Professor Mansfield's office in Room 1349 in the Remington Center or contact her at 262-9142 (mmmansfield@wisc.edu). Students wishing to enroll in any of these programs can use our application form. Enrollment begins in the fall of each year.

What Students Have to Say About Their FCC Experience

  • More than anything in Law School, FCC has taught me who I am, in the professional sense. FCC has helped me develop skills in client communication, both with my client and with FCC intakes. The thorough knowledge of family law that the Clinic has given me has aided in my understanding of which questions are best to ask and the limits on what I am able to do for each intake.
  • I was surprised that the people who used FCC ranged so greatly in age, race, and social class. I was not expecting the program to have reached such a variety of people so quickly. The work I did at FCC was engaging and challenging. I was surprised that the divorce process would be so complicated and with such a variety of difficulties at its various points.
  • My work at FCC has definitely impacted my ideas about lawyering. I think that FCC has taught me how to “think like a lawyer.” During my courthouse intake shifts, I’m able to help individuals with all sorts of family law issues. I feel as though I can break a problem down into components and deal with each component one at a time. This means that I can offer much better assistance. I believe that this way of breaking down problems will translate to any and all areas of law that I may pursue after FCC.
  • I really love the way the clinic is run. I like the feeling of independence we receive, but also the feeling of support.
  • FCC has been a tremendous benefit. It has really helped with my fear of speaking in public. The past months have really given me more confidence.
  • Working with people and getting to know them really helps to increase your motivation to to do a good job. Seeing people and talking to them face-to-face makes their problem more real and makes you want to do your very best to help them succeed.
  • If there is not a form for what they want, it probably is time to put on the counseling hat.

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