Experience with the Domestic Violence Clinic

askrenby Jill Askren, Class of 2015

Jill Askren is originally from Vero Beach, Florida. She earned her B.A. from the University of Central Florida, double majoring in Political Science and Economics. As a 3L, she serves as a Lead Articles Editor for the William and Mary Law Review and as the Scholarly Series Coordinator for the Institute of Bill of Rights Law: Student Division. 

I had the opportunity to participate in the Domestic Violence Clinic during my 3L fall semester. This was a great experience as the clinic gave me a chance to work with actual clients, not just the hypothetical clients used in law school courses. The clinic’s focus was on advocating for protective orders for individuals through the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. We started the semester by learning more about domestic violence and how it is such a widespread problem. A representative from a local domestic violence center then came and talked to us about the best ways to interact with clients and how to understand their situations.  We also practiced conducting client interviews and cross-examinations so that we would be prepared when we received our cases.

The matter to which I was assigned involved cyberstalking. I met with the client and with my clinic advisor to discuss the issues and come up with questions along with opening and closing statements. When I got to court, I was a little nervous because I had never before presented a case to a judge. But once I got started, it got easier, and the client received the protective order. The other students in the clinic worked on cases involving a range of domestic violence issues, and we were given the opportunity to share our experiences at the end of the semester and learn about each other’s work.

I am grateful that William and Mary offers students the chance to participate in clinics. In my past internships and externships, I had not been so involved in a case from start to finish. Plus, with my Third-Year Practice Certificate, I was able to question witnesses and give statements in court. But beyond the practical experience, clinics allow students to examine societal issues and work to help those in our local community.  These are all valuable skills for when we start practicing law. My only regret is that I will not be able to see how the clinic grows next year now that it has received a grant from the Department of Justice to expand its reach.

This blog post is part of a series featuring student experiences in William & Mary Law School’s nine clinics. To view more clinic posts, click here.