New clinical education program at VU Law School to help domestic violence victims

August 22, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Victims of domestic violence as well as the future lawyers who will represent this growing constituency will benefit from a nearly $259,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant to Vanderbilt University Law School to establish the first domestic violence clinical training program for law students in Middle Tennessee.

Awarded under the Violence Against Women Act, the grant will support the hiring of a full-time clinical faculty member for the Domestic Violence Clinic, which will provide free legal services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as an outstanding learning experience for some of the law students. “Through the Vanderbilt Law School’s partnership with several service providers and legal agencies, our students will develop a comprehensive understanding of the complex legal and social issues concerning domestic violence,” said Susan L. Kay, associate dean for clinical affairs. “These students will be able someday to establish better public policy in their communities to aid victims.”

Third-year students who enroll in the class will be expected to handle a limited number of cases under the close supervision of the clinical faculty member. In addition, the students will work with the Mary Parrish Center for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence, a holistic survivor-centered community organization for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Kay, who directs the Law School’s clinical programs, said that this new clinic will focus primarily on cases involving custody, visitation and orders of protection for clients who either were never married to their abusers or whose divorces have already become final. “Since many indigent domestic violence victims have access to pro-bono representation within the community for on-going divorce cases, the domestic violence clinic will target clients in cases where the survivor has never married, or where the divorce is final.”

In order to ensure the best representation for the clients while educating the Vanderbilt law students, the program will partner with not only the Mary Parrish Center, but also Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Marion Griffin Chapter of the Lawyers Association for Women, Special Advocates for Victims of Violence, Madison Children’s Home and Domestic Violence Program, YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter and Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Many of the referrals to the clinic will come from these agencies, and clients must meet the indigency guidelines established by the Vanderbilt Legal Clinic, Kay said.

“While our closely supervised students will provide approximately eight hours a week in direct representation of victims, they also will become educated in the many dynamics of domestic violence through a required classroom course called “Domestic Violence Law” that is already offered at the law school,” Kay said. In addition, the grant provides for community education and training efforts to domestic violence advocates, pro bono attorneys and other interested persons. The clinic will create a pamphlet detailing the services provided at the law school and distribute them in appropriate locations.

For more information about the Domestic Violence Clinic, contact the Vanderbilt Legal Clinic at (615) 322-4964.

For more information about Vanderbilt, please visit the News Service homepage at

Media contact: Ann Marie Owens, 615-322-NEWS,

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