Adolescent Representation Clinic
Students represent youth and young adults ages 16 to 24 whose eligibility for foster care and related institutional settings is ending. The clinic advocates for them on issues ranging from housing, income benefits and teen parenting to identity theft, financial debt and inheritance. Simulation classes in interviewing and counseling, problem solving and negotiation prepare students to represent clients in dispute resolution and litigation processes. Students also spearhead law reform advocacy that arises directly from client concerns and is addressed through deep investigation of interdisciplinary policies and practices.
The clinic has four components:
- Seminar in Representing Adolescents: a weekly seminar will focus on the unique attributes of adolescents and young adults as viewed from multiple disciplines including medicine, law, sociology, and psychology. In addition to law students enrolled in the clinic, graduate students from other disciplines may enroll in the seminar portion of the clinic in order to explore adolescence from multiple perspectives. Guest lecturers include advocates, family court judges, youth in foster care, and mental health professionals.
- Class and Simulation Exercises to prepare for casework: students will participate in intensive simulation practice, being introduced to basic lawyering skills including interviewing and counseling, case development and strategy, complex problem solving, and preparation for negotiation or litigation. Because of the unique requirements of representing youth and young adults, students engage in additional interdisciplinary learning beyond the seminar component, using the approaches and knowledge of many disciplines to represent the clients effectively. During September, there will be two additional “boot camp” classes on Fridays to jump start students’ abilities to begin representing clients.
- Client Representation: students will begin to represent clients in late September following the intensive introduction to representation. Students will be teamed in pairs for casework. Each team will meet weekly with Professor Spinak for case supervision. Once case representation begins, some portion of the classes devoted to case preparation will be structured for case rounds so that students will be aware of and learn from their colleagues’ cases. Once casework has begun, students should expect to devote at least 20 hours per week to clinic-related activities in the fall; somewhat less in the spring.
- Law Reform, Education and Policy Work: During the 2014-2016 academic years, clinic students researched and wrote a report on housing instability for youth aging out of foster care with the goal of developing solutions for policy and lawmakers to reduce housing instability and homelessness. This report was based on the experiences of clinic clients and our advocacy on their behalf over the last several years. Students in 2016-2017 have used the report to serve as the basis for systemic advocacy in collaboration with other groups. All clinic students will participate in continuing this advocacy campaign, which is expected to include policy, lobbying and legislative components. Recent campaign activities can be read about here: http://www.law.columbia.edu/news/2017/02/foster-care-advocate-youth-housing
Students with a wide range of backgrounds and/or ultimate career interests are encouraged to apply. Graduates of the clinic enter public service and private practice careers, frequently using their clinic experience to develop pro bono opportunities in the private sector. Students will focus on their own professional goals for the year, identifying specific skills or professional attributes they would like to develop or enhance in preparation for making the transition into the legal profession. The clinic will encompass professional responsibility and ethical practice issues as well as explorations into the role of law and legal practice in a just society.
To read about some of our other recent policy advocacy, click here:
Student Highlight: Ademisola Ijidakinro
“I participated in the Adolescent Representation Clinic because I’ve always been interested in working with youth populations. Becoming an effective advocate takes commitment and dedication to learning things outside of your comfort zone. The clinic prepared me to think critically and creatively about resolving issues, skills I know will be crucial in my future practice.”
- Ademisola Ijidakinro ’18
Faculty Highlight: Professor Jane M. Spinak
Jane M. Spinak is the Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law. A member of the Columbia faculty since 1982, she co-founded the Child Advocacy Clinic, which currently represents adolescents aging out of foster care.
To read Spinak’s full biography and to find her contact information, visit the Faculty Contacts page.