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Student Legal Clinics|College of Law

Legal Services Program and Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Program

Professor Danielle R. Cover, Faculty Supervisor, Legal Services Program

Professor Dona Playton, Faculty Supervisor, Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Program

What are the goals of the legal services clinics at the law school?

The University of Wyoming College of Law's Legal Services Program (UWLSP) and the DV Legal Assistance Project (DVLAP) strive to address the unmet legal needs of Wyoming's low income population.   A recent release from the Legal Services Corporation finds that at least 80 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans are not being met. Professor John Burman  

Law students enrolled in UWLSP and the DVLAP work hard to bridge the justice gap that exists in our state by providing comprehensive legal representation in civil, non-fee generating cases to people whose income is at or below 125% of the federal poverty level, including those who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual assault.   

What type of cases are handled in the clinics?

The student interns handle a wide array of cases including divorce, child custody, modification of divorce and child custody, domestic violence protection orders, stalking orders, Guardian ad litem appointments in juvenile and domestic relations cases, consumer debt, public benefits, return of property and immigration issues.  Law students represent children or their parents in child abuse and neglect cases, termination of parental rights, children in need of supervision, delinquency actions, along with representing immigrants in removal proceedings and assisting them to apply for asylum or other immigrant status.  In addition, clinic students travel to the Wyoming State Penitentiary and the Wyoming Women's Center every semester to discuss legal issues and to represent qualifying inmates. 

Is there a need for such services in our state?

There are still far too many low income people in Wyoming who are forced to interpret and resolve complex legal matters with little or no competent legal assistance.   

Except for the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault's legal project, which employs two attorneys (in addition to the DVLAP Director), the UWLSP and DVLAP are the only publicly funded programs in the state which offer a full range of pro bono legal services in the area of domestic relations, including post decree modifications and enforcement actions; an area that continues to be a significant unmet legal need in Wyoming.

Additionally, UWLSP remains the state's primary pro bono legal provider for juvenile issues, including representation of parents in juvenile court and appointment as guardian ad Professor Dona Playtonlitem on behalf of children involved in the child welfare system.

Law students consistently report that the experience of working in a clinic opens their eyes to the need for social justice and impacts their commitment to provide pro bono assistance and to integrate public service into their practice, regardless of their career choice.

What can the student interns in the clinics do?

Law students enrolled in the College of Law's legal assistance clinics do all of the work for their clients, including interviewing, counseling, research, discovery, negotiation, motion practice, trials, and appeals.  Students draft pleadings and correspondence, maintain contact with clients, attorneys and witnesses and participate in bi-weekly case status reviews of their cases.  In addition, students receive training on how to most effectively engage and serve low-income people.  Our clinics offer participating third-year law students education and experience lawyering by allowing students to form lawyer-client relationships directly with clients, to exercise legal judgment and perform legal services for those clients pro bono.  

With close support and supervision of an experienced and well-trained faculty, law students address the complex legal, social, emotional, ethical, and public policy questions involved in the practice of law.  In addition, law students work together with practicing professionals in the fields of social work, psychology, pediatrics, and psychiatry.  

Is there a classroom component?

The legal services clinic students meet together 2 hours per week for the first half of the semester.  In addition, there is a retreat where a specialized area of the law is lookedDV Clinic Students at in detail. Training's include subjects on how to work with people with disabilities, including mental health issues; the dynamics of domestic violence; how to be an effective guardian ad litem; working with immigrants and economic barriers and benefits for low income individuals.   

Legal Services Clinics enhances professionalism in and access to Wyoming's legal system. 

Working with real clients with real problems allows law students to begin the lifelong process of becoming thoughtful, responsible, and reflective lawyers. Clinic students gain critical skills in communication, information gathering, persuasion, and legal and factual analysis that prepare them to address the complex needs their clients will present.  Students gain legal experience at the same time incorporating how to professionally and ethically represent a client.   Students learn to find the right combination of zealous and compassionate advocacy benefiting not only the student for a lifetime, but the client and often his or her family as well.   Students are challenged to consider how the practice of law may be reformed and to embrace the professional responsibility of assisting those who may otherwise be barred from accessing our legal system.

For additional information please contact Dona Playton.

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