CHILDREN'S RIGHTS CLINIC IS A 6-HR. CLINIC. YOU MUST REGISTER FOR BOTH 397C (CENTRAL) AND ONE OF THE 397D (SKILLS) SECTIONS.
Students in the Children's Rights Clinic represent children in Travis County as their student attorney ad litem in cases brought by Child Protective Services (CPS), the local arm of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The state may intervene with a family in a variety of ways when abuse or neglect of the children is alleged, 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 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 attorney ad litem. 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 "sit first chair" at hearings, and also is expected to research and prepare the case as the first chair. Each student will be assigned a mix of newly filed cases and litigation in various stages of development. The general rule under the Texas Family Code requires CPS cases be finally resolved within one year to 18 months.
If the case goes to final hearing, student participation in the trial will vary from partial to very significant. Each student is assigned several cases and will have multiple opportunities to appear in court during the semester, primarily on Monday and Friday. Most of the court appearances involve pretrial matters or hearings before a judge. On regular occasion, some students participate in a bench trial, the majority of which are relatively short. In some instances, a trial to a judge or jury of several days may occur. 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 ad litem, and police officers.
The clinic has a class component taught by the clinic's director, Scott McCown, a retired state judge who presided over a child protection docket. The class meets twice a week to focus on substantive law, procedural techniques, and ethical issues. 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 may include some trips outside of Travis County (for which travel is 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 (the clinic package of two 3-credit courses). There is no paper or final exam.
In addition to selecting the Clinic during Early Registration, students need to fill out a short application. For more information see https://law.utexas.edu/clinics/childrens-rights/