The Child Advocacy Clinic at St. John’s University School of Law
is a four-credit, in-house, live-client, litigation skills
clinic. This Clinic represents children 0-21 years old who
are alleged to be abused or neglected by their caretakers, in
proceedings before New York State Family Court in Queens
County. The Clinic operates under the auspices of the Legal
Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice.
During the course of the clinic, Child Advocacy Clinic students
typically interview clients, witnesses, family members, social
services professionals, mental health providers, and others related
to our clients’ well-being; conduct other factual investigations
into the children’s circumstances; appear at Family Court hearings
and conferences; go on field visits to residential, educational,
and/or other relevant environments; perform legal research and
writing; advocate administratively for the children, their
relatives, and their foster parents; work interdisciplinarily with
St. John’s University and Legal Aid Society social workers, subject
area specialists, and other consultants; and otherwise conduct all
aspects of pre-trial, trial, and post-dispositional proceedings in
Child Advocacy Clinic students are paired in 2-person teams for
the duration of the semester and represent an average of 2.5 cases,
or 5.25 live clients, per team. Student teams represent their
clients at status conferences, settlement conferences, pre-trial
hearings, trial, dispositional hearings, permanency hearings,
administrative fair hearings, and other venues to advocate for
their clients’ needs. During the semester student attorneys
will appear in court approximately twenty times.
Current Child Advocacy Clinic cases include allegations of:
- parental drug use,
- failure to send children to school (educational neglect),
- domestic violence,
- mental illness,
- excessive corporal punishment, and
Approximately half of the children we represent are in foster
care; the ones who are not are at risk of coming into foster care.
The clinic regularly refreshes its caseload by conducting new case
intakes on a rolling basis throughout the year. Clinic
students participate in case intake and arraignments whenever
In addition to representing the clients, Child Advocacy Clinic
students are paired individually with Legal Aid Society mentors, in
order to observe their mentors in Court. Through the
mentoring program, students are further exposed to a variety of
court-related experiences (conferences, plea deals, trials,
emergency hearings, witness preparation, pro se proceedings, bench
conferences, and diverse litigation and negotiation styles, to name
a few). Mentors share strategy and practice skills with the
students, answer students’ questions after the Mentors’ court
appearances, and guide students toward a better understanding of
institutional, courthouse lawyering. Between appearing
on their own cases and shadowing their mentors, Child Advocacy
Students are in Court at least once every two weeks and often much
more frequently than that – sometimes multiple times per week.
There is also a weekly seminar component to the Clinic.
- Weekly two-hour seminar class, weekly reading assignments;
- Thirteen hours per week minimum work on cases (does not include
above). This time requirement is a minimum. There can
be periods of case activity which require significantly more than
the minimum commitment in any given week.
- Attendance at pre-semester Child Protection Law Boot Camp;
- Willingness to prioritize clinic clients (within reason) above
other commitments for the duration of the semester;
- Flexibility and willingness to handle emergencies occurring
outside of scheduled office hours;
Suggested pre- or
There are no pre- or co-requisites for this course, but students
may find family law, poverty law, evidence, and trial advocacy
helpful in handling their cases.
The Clinic is open to 2Ls and 3Ls, but priority will be given to
Office Hours and Student
Students set and maintain thirteen scheduled weekly office
hours, at least 10 of which must take place during normal
Court hours. All work done on cases counts towards office
hours, including field visits, court visits, and other activities
done outside the clinic or outside of scheduled office hours.
Students must adhere to their office hours schedules unless case
developments require a different arrangement for that week.
When that is the case, students receive “office hours credit” for
work done outside of office hours, and minimum in-clinic office
hours for that week are reduced accordingly. Students keep track of
their weekly hours, both in-clinic and out, by submitting weekly
This clinic is rewarding, but demanding, and students should
carefully consider this in light of their other academic,
co-curricular, and personal commitments. Part-time employment
is discouraged for students enrolled in the clinic.
If you would like to speak with a current Child Advocacy Clinic
student about his or her experiences this semester, please email
Prof. Baum or see Orietta Miceli-Ortiz in room 2-26, to obtain a
list of students who have agreed to be contacted.
Please email Professor Jennifer Baum (at email@example.com) a cover
email expressing your interest in the Clinic and stating
whether you are a 2L or a 3L, and resume. Professor Baum will
contact you to confirm receipt of your materials.