Law 783 - Family Law Practice: A Non-Litigation Approach
This course will examine cutting edge developments, lawyering roles, and practice skills that are necessary to prepare law students for a successful career to serve families using a non-adversarial orientation. The course will emphasize key policy values of expanding access of families in conflict to obtain affordable legal representation, obtain fair results outside the courtroom, and minimize harm to parents and their children. The class will explore the basic peacemaking and legal access concepts that include: providing informed consent to clients; exploring perspectives of family mediation (primarily as lawyer representing mediation participants); offering limited scope legal coaching and representation to the growing number of self- represented litigants; becoming part of an interdisciplinary collaborative law team in which lawyers are disqualified from representing their clients in litigation if settlement is not reached; and offering preventive legal services such as premarital agreements and dispute resolution protocols to help family members avoid future disputes.
Every student will have the following experiences to learn about family law practice: observation of a court proceeding, visit with a sitting family law judge, and the opportunity to spend time with a practicing family lawyer and to sit in on a settlement meeting. In addition, professionals in the field will be guest speakers during the semester.
Each class session will focus on a key family law issue (eg developing a parenting plan, valuing a community property business, protection against domestic violence, child and spousal support). Students will apply these family law issues to role play simulations and experiential learning of key lawyering tasks such as:
•Conduct client consultations;
•Draft correspondence, lawyer-client engagement agreements, strategy memoranda, and settlement documents;
•Design various types of settlement processes
•Negotiate terms of settlement agreements in a variety of family law issues and in various lawyering roles;
•Use preventive diagnostic tools to assess and maintain family legal wellness and to avoid future conflict and disputes.
Maximum 16 students. No Final Exam. Grading will be based on: 70% - Student’s preparation for class (completion and knowledge of readings and quality of written assignments), active and thoughtful participation in class discussion, and performance in role play simulations and lawyering task assignments, 30% - Final Assignment: Based on the concepts and lessons learned during the semester, each student will write a letter to a client (7-10 pages) based on a family law fact situation provided by the instructor. This letter will be due at the conclusion of the Exam Period.
Course Specific Learning Outcomes:
• Learn the basic concepts, values and perspectives of peacemaking, limited scope representation of self-represented litigants, representing clients in mediation, collaborative law, and preventive legal services; survey developments in the legal profession and field of conflict resolution.
• Learn elements and application of key family law issues. Examples include parenting decision making, developing a parenting time share plan, protection for parties and children in respect to violence and abuse, child support, payment of child related expenses, amount and term of spousal support, family residence, determining community and separate income and property, handling expenses and obligations, and retirement assets, and payment of attorney and expert fees.
• Learn, apply, and practice non-litigation lawyering skills to resolve important family law issues.
• Explore alternative role models and possible career opportunities in family law practice.