Clinical Associate Professor of Law
Law: Civil Practice Clinic
Empowerment Through Interdisciplinary Partnerships in a Clinic Setting
In general, law students traditionally do not always receive much training in how to conduct and develop relationships with clients. One avenue in which law students are able to gain those skills is by participating in a live client clinical course or serving as an extern in one of many legal settings. Evidence based law student assessment revealed that even with some training some skill sets were lacking, such as the ability to identify client resources, conduct overall holistic assessment and deal with emotionally charged clients and situations. The Civil Practice Clinic has a long-standing history of serving the impoverished whose legal needs are often previously unmet due to poverty and domestic violence. The skills needed to meet with those clients, and really any clients in general, are typically taught in the companion clinical course, with most entering students not having utilized those skills previously in a professional setting. Similarly, social work students frequently have interaction with the law and legal settings during the course of their careers, but do not have any real concrete exposure to the knowledge, theories and skills involved in the law prior to entering the professional world. To combat these identified interdisciplinary obstacles, a partnership was formed through a joint Curriculum Enhancement Grant award with the IU School of Social Work and Professor Stephanie Boys to pair law students with social work students for client representation and assessment in the Civil Practice Clinic. Students were paired into interdisciplinary teams and assigned clients throughout the semester after undergoing interdisciplinary training that involved combining skill sets, theories and general knowledge bases. Both sets of students were able to then apply the joint knowledge and skills to the betterment of each client's everyday life situations as well as their own professional careers, as they now had two sets of knowledge and colleagues to call on in practice. Through national and international presentations, further student data collection and assessment, and continued research and interdisciplinary collaboration, the interdisciplinary clinic model will keep translating theory into practice by refining and improving the implemented model and skill sets for the future betterment of all students and clients involved. Stephanie Quiring, our graduate research assistant, has done an amazing job organizing ideas as well as collecting and assessing our data.