Real Cases. Real Experience.
Students must have completed 43 credit hours prior to enrollment pursuant to rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Texas for the supervised practice of law by students.
6 credits (pass/fail) — offered Fall, Spring
Students must register for Law 397C and 397D, for a total of six credits.
Students in the Children’s Rights Clinic represent abused or neglected children in Travis County as their student attorney ad litem. The cases are brought by Child Protective Services (CPS), an arm of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The state may intervene in a family in a variety of ways, including seeking temporary or permanent custody of a child, or termination of parental rights. Appointment of the Clinic as attorney ad litem complies with mandatory Texas law that a child involved in such litigation be represented by a lawyer.
Two very experienced family-law attorneys, Clinical Professors Lori Duke and Leslie Strauch, supervise the representation of clients by the student attorneys ad litem. Student attorneys work closely with the supervising attorneys. The supervising attorneys sign pleadings drafted by the students and accompany them at every court hearing, deposition, and trial on the merits. However, within a week or two, a student attorney can expect to take the lead in the case and "sit first chair" at hearings. Each student will be assigned a mix of newly filed cases and litigation in various stages of development.
Each student will have multiple opportunities to appear in court during the semester, primarily on Monday and Friday. Most of the court appearances involve pre-trial matters or other preliminary hearings before a judge. On regular occasion, some students participate in a bench trial on the merits, the majority of which are relatively short. In some instances, a trial to a jury may happen during the semester. In fact, the Clinic tried two jury cases in Spring 2014. Students also participate fully in mediation sessions. In representing clients, students meet with a wide variety of persons, including medical and mental health professionals, teachers, foster parents, caseworkers and social workers, attorneys, layperson CASA volunteers who may serve as guardians, and police officers.
The class meets twice a week to focus on substantive law and policy, procedure and skills, and ethical issues. The class is taught by the director of the Clinic, Clinical Professor Scott McCown, who heard CPS cases as a state district judge. In addition to the classroom component, each student should expect to average about 12 to 15 hours per week on clinic fieldwork for a total of 180 hours. The weekly workload varies considerably, depending upon the stage of litigation of each particular case. Students are required to travel to see their child clients. These client visits include trips outside of Travis County (which are reimbursed).
Prerequisites: There are no substantive or procedural law prerequisites for the course. Students must meet Texas requirements for the participation of qualified law students in the trial of cases under rules promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court, which basically requires completion of 43 credit hours with no scholastic probation.
Students receive six hours of credit per semester on a pass/fail basis for the CRC package of two 3-credit courses. There is no paper or final exam. This course meets the Professional Skills requirement for graduation.
In addition to selecting the Clinic during Early Registration, students need to fill out a short application. For more information, see http://www.utexas.edu/law/clinics/applications.php.