School of law plans advocacy clinic

The St. John’s University Law School has a new and beneficial addition in the form of the Child Advocacy Clinic.

The clinic opened its doors in the fall of 2005. The program is open to second and third year law school students. These students work on cases specifically dealing with child abuse and neglect. They are given special permission by the Queens County Family Court to act as Law Guardians and represent the children and their legal interest from arraignment to the case’s final declaration.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) felt that the clinic was important, and backed the University in its endeavor.

“I want to commend St. John’s University for establishing the Child Advocacy Clinic,” Senator Clinton told University representatives. “By providing abused and neglected children with free legal representation, St. John’s is serving an important community need while giving students valuable advocacy experience.”

Senator Clinton also worked to secure funding for the Child Advocacy Clinic in the FY 2006 Commerce Justice and State Appropriations bill and, along with the law school, announced $300,000 in federal aid on Jan. 26.

“I am grateful and proud that Sen. Clinton recognizes and supports the longstanding commitment of St. John’s University to help meet the needs of the underserved of New York City,” said Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., University president.

“The federal support of the St. John’s University Child Advocacy Clinic will not only help children in most need of legal advocacy but it will also provide our law students with practical courtroom training and valuable legal experience,” he added.

Students from the School of Law also feel that the clinic will be beneficial to their law school experience and their future careers.

“In school you get a lot of theoretical experience, but you don’t really learn the practice of law,” said Vincent Kullen, a third-year law school student and volunteer at the clinic. “We are given special privileges to act as lawyers, learning everything from paperwork to arguing on our client’s behalf.”

Kullen also said that the clinic is advantageous for the children that they help.

“We’re not providing any additional service that the children wouldn’t get otherwise,” Kullen said. “There are legal aid societies which usually do the work. But they get swamped with cases. Here, two students are assigned to one case with a supervising attorney, and the children get much more in-depth representation because we solely focus on their case.”

Senator Clinton agreed.

“This is much more than just an educational initiative,” Clinton said. “The Child Advocacy Clinic aims to make a real difference in the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society.”