Law Students Help Low-Income Clients in Domestic Relations Court
By Stephanie Beougher ¿ May 10, 2016
Elliousa Baier gained real-world experience at Portage County Domestic Relations Court in her final semester at the University of Akron School of Law. With the help of an experienced attorney, she and three other third-year law students were the first to go through the domestic relations clinic course and help low-income clients with family law matters like dissolutions and uncontested divorces.
"There are a lot of classes in law school where you're able to draft mock documents and things like that, but this is one where you're actually doing it for a real client and able to come into Judge Giulitto's courtroom and actually argue a case," Baier said.
Judge Paula Giulitto of the Portage County Domestic Relations Court came up with the idea and contacted the law school.
"What we learn in law school is difficult to carry over into practice. You don't get to meet clients, you don't get to learn how to have your personality interact with them and paint out realistic expectations for their case and then present the case. These students had that opportunity and to the benefit of the litigants who would have otherwise not had that guidance," Judge Giulitto said.
According to intern Lauren Knight, feedback from the clients was positive.
"They have no idea, a lot of times, what exactly the court process, is so having someone to help them get through that, to help guide them through that, is just very comforting to them, I think," Knight said.
Ravenna attorney Tim Thomas mentored the clinic interns during the semester.
"Domestic relations law is a unique area where not only are you dealing with the law but you have a lot of situations where counseling is going to be important," Thompson said. "You're an attorney and counselor-at-law because you're dealing with very emotional issues and you're only doing a part of your job if you're just taking care of the legalities."
Judge Giulitto was pleased with how well the interns were prepared.
"I think they presented their case very well. They were articulate, they asked the right questions, and they had great presence in the courtroom. I think they will each have a very bright future in the law," she said.
While Baier, Knight, Gwenn Starda, and Will Roberts have completed the course and will now get ready for the bar exam, the clinic will continue this summer when a new group of law students takes the course.