In past semesters, the Family Law Clinic had a partnership with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) wherein clinic students assisted with client intake (interviewing clients, directing them, assisting with family law forms, etc.). This arrangement was mutually beneficial in that it provided assistance to JALA in accommodating the numerous family law clients while affording the Family Law Clinicians with the opportunity to hone their interviewing and counseling skills. Unfortunately, due to budget issues, JALA currently does not take many family cases and thus stopped hosting intake. Instead they refer family cases to us and to other pro bono attorneys in the community.
In Fall 2011, the family court contacted Florida Coastal’ s Family Law Clinic seeking assistance in its Family Court Services division. Family Court Services is a division of the family court which provides self-represented (pro se) litigants with an accessible and coordinated means of resolving their family law cases. Family Court Services interviews all persons who are seeking pro se assistance with family law matters and assists them by: determining what type of legal relief is appropriate and then providing information about available court approved forms that may be used by the litigant; providing case information entered in the court file of the litigant; providing definitions of legal terminology; and providing general information about court process, practice, and procedures; as well as other needed assistance.
Due to budget shortfalls, Family Court Services lost personnel and thus developed a need in the area of intake (which involves dealing with walk-in pro se family law litigants, interviewing them, pointing them in the right direction, and assisting with family law forms). Faced with the prospect of curtailing its hours or closing the office on certain days of the week, the family court contacted our legal clinic and requested our assistance. Since Fall 2011, Family Clinicians have been assisting with intake at Family Court Services. Clinicians who have participated in this partnership have been exposed to all types of family law and Family law-related issues and have gained extensive experience with interviewing and counseling, issue spotting and problem solving.
The partnership has been extremely beneficial for all involved because it has afforded our clinicians with valuable legal experience while allowing the office of Family Court Services to continue serving pro se family litigants at its current capacity. The staff at family court services has been extremely complementary of the quality of work provided by our students that a new for-credit externship was created and two family law clinicians (Shachar Spiegel and Nequosha Anderson) have even been extended opportunities to work directly with the Family Court Services Magistrates!