Experiences with the Family Law Clinic

Raffaeleby Nick Raffaele, Class of 2015

Nick Raffaele is originally from Clearwater, Florida. He earned his B.B.A. from the University of Miami in 2012 with majors in Political Science and Business Law. After graduating and sitting for the bar exam, Nick will be joining Phillips and Peters, PLLC to practice family law in Norfolk, Virginia.

Students looking to gain hands on experience in the legal field of their choice should look no further than William and Mary Law School’s Clinic program. As someone involved in domestic law, W&M actually offers two clinics directly related to my interests: the Family Law Clinic and the Domestic Violence Clinic. I began my Clinic career by enrolling in the Family Law Clinic for the fall 2014 semester, and the experience and networking I gained have proven invaluable. Of course, getting course credit in the process is quite convenient.

My supervisor at the family law clinic was Darryl W. Cunningham, Esq., and we worked out of the Williamsburg office for the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. He was a fantastic mentor, who was clearly passionate about his work and always seemed enthusiastic to teach his profession to his students. The Clinic experience was a perfect blend of independent exposure to and measured instruction in case management, client service, and litigation strategy. Each student was given about three files to manage, and we all met once a week to discuss our cases and give each other advice on how to proceed. Mr. Cunningham would also give lessons on different aspects of family law each week, such as the stages of a divorce lawsuit, the principles that govern custody/visitation disputes, and calculating child support.

The clinic was a fantastic opportunity to step away from the doctrinal aspect of legal education and gain truly practical experience. Throughout the course of the semester, we had chances to appear in court using Virginia’s Third-Year Practice Certificate. We also spent plenty of time meeting with clients, drafting pleadings, and communicating with opposing counsel. In fact, networking opportunities presented by the Clinic led to my offer of employment after graduation. I am very much looking forward to working with Mr. Cunningham again during the spring 2015 semester as part of the Domestic Violence Clinic.

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.

Read about Nick’s 2013 summer work here.