One year after opening its doors to clients, the UW Law School’s VOCA Restraining Order Clinic has helped 62 survivors navigate legal issues in four Wisconsin counties. Under director Ryan Poe-Gavlinski’s supervision, law students help victims of domestic violence, from trial preparation through direct representation in courtroom proceedings. The clinic recently won a legal innovator award from the State Bar of Wisconsin.

Working in Dane, Sauk, Jefferson and Rock counties, the clinic has assisted clients in obtaining restraining orders in cases of intimate partner abuse, harassment and child abuse.

While the clinic focuses on restraining orders, it emphasizes finding the best path forward for each client. “Survivors may decide not to proceed with a restraining order, as there are a lot of dangers and ramifications that come along with that,” says Poe-Gavlinski. “The benefit of our clinic is that we can work with the survivors to talk about options, strengths and weaknesses of different legal avenues.”

The UW Law School developed the program with the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Office of Crime Victim Services and State Representative Cody Horlacher. Studies show that without assistance from a lawyer, only 32% of survivors succeed in obtaining a restraining order. With legal representation, 83% succeed in obtaining a restraining order.

While the clinic has assisted many clients in obtaining injunctions or protections, the need for support for survivors goes beyond the clinic’s reach, says Poe-Gavlinski. “A survivor may not have employment, a place to live, or family and friends to assist him or her. A goal of the clinic is not only to offer assistance now to victims of crime, but to also train our future lawyers so that they can take these types of cases in the future and slowly build a network for survivors.”

Director Ryan Poe-Gavlinski is available for interviews and can be reached at 608-890-1596 and

Submitted by Karen Koethe on November 26, 2019

This article appears in the categories: EJI News, Faculty, Features

Related employee profiles: Ryan Poe-Gavlinski