Faulkner Law’s Spirit of Service: The Faulkner Law Clinics

Spirit of ServiceThe Faulkner Law community is called to serve. And there is no better example of that service than the Faulkner Law legal clinics that offer free legal assistance to those in need in the River Region. Last year alone, Faulkner Law’s Family Violence Clinic, Mediation Clinic, and Elder Law Clinic provided free legal services to more than one hundred twenty clients, and mediated more than ninety civil lawsuits.

The Elder Law Clinic

Professor John Craft, Director of the Elder Law Clinic, is helping lead the fight against Elder Abuse in the River Region. Part of Craft’s work involves the Faulkner Law Elder Law Clinic, established in 2006. The Clinic assists elderly, low-income clients in preparing wills, powers of attorney, and other legal documents.

In addition to his work with the Clinic, Craft also leads JSL’s involvement with the Montgomery County Elder Justice Task Force. The Task Force, created by Montgomery County District Attorney and Faulkner Law graduate Daryl Bailey, seeks to prevent exploitation of the elderly, provide resources for victims, and raise community awareness regarding the growing problem of elder abuse.

“Crimes against the elderly can be both emotionally and financially devastating. They are severely underreported because the victim may be embarrassed; may suffer from memory loss; or may be victimized by a friend or family member,” Craft said. “It’s not only the victim and their family members that need to learn how to recognize and report the abuse. It takes a community as a whole to intervene and help in those circumstances where the victim is not really wanting or able to report it.”

Just yesterday, Craft and the Elder Law Clinic students assisted with client intake during an event hosted by the Montgomery Volunteer Lawyers Program. Approximately seventy economically-disadvantaged seniors attended the event.

“I believe it is important for our students to know and experience a lawyer’s role as a ‘public citizen,’” said Craft. “After all, lawyers are servants not only for their clients but also for the community at large.”

Craft plans to speak at Landmark church of Christ on Friday, June 19th, during a community education session. Craft will be presenting on the “Five Most Common Elder Law Questions” and answering questions from the audience (both seniors and adult caregivers).

On Wednesday, June 24th, Craft will be a featured speaker at the 2015 Bridge Builders Breakfast sponsored by the Alabama Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. The event is free and is open to elected officials, community leaders, and other professionals.

Kenneth F. Dunham Mediation Clinic

Faulkner’s Mediation Clinic was established in 1997 by Professor Ken Dunham, and provides students with first-hand experience in conducting mediations for the Montgomery County and Autauga County courts. The Mediation Clinic provides a win-win for participating students, the courts and litigants. For the students, they have an opportunity to enhance their legal skills by applying what they learned in classes to real-world cases. For the courts, overcrowded dockets are reduced when disputes are amicably settled between parties. For the litigants, law student mediators empower these parties to resolve their cases in creative ways that holistically support the parties’ legal, financial, reputational and personal interests.

During the spring 2015 semester, the Mediation Clinic had a 77% settlement rate, and 100% of participants reported that they were “very satisfied” (84%) or “satisfied” (16%) with the service received from student mediators.

Because of his integral role in establishing the Mediation Clinic and perpetuating its success, Faulkner recently renamed the Mediation Clinic the Kenneth F. Dunham Mediation Clinic. JSL would like to thank Professor Dunham, who retired in the fall of 2014, for all of his hard work.

Elyce C. Morris, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Faulkner Law’s Mediation Clinic, joined the Faulkner faculty in January 2015. Morris plans to continue the work of this well established clinic and work with judges, community members and business leaders to see what other mediation needs our law students might be able to fill in Montgomery or neighboring counties.

“Like so many law clinics throughout the nation, our mediation clinic serves the dual function of educating students through ‘practice’ and of helping many stakeholders in the community,” said Morris. “In the coming years, I seek to identify additional venues for law student mediators to positively influence our community, as they simultaneously refine their own dispute resolution skills.”

The Family Violence Clinic

The Family Violence Clinic, established in 2004, partners with One Place Family Justice Center to protect victims of domestic violence. Students counsel victims of their legal options, file court petitions when necessary, and represent their clients at court hearings. Participating students work under the supervision of Professor Kelly McTear, Director of the Family Violence Clinic.

The Clinic provides assistance to approximately fifty victims each semester. Working in conjunction with the other partners at One Place, including the Family Sunshine Center, the Montgomery Police Department, the Montgomery County District Attorney, and Legal Services Alabama, students are able to find real and lasting solutions to multi-faceted problems arising in the family violence context.

Of the student experience in the FVC, McTear said, “Students leave the clinical program understanding what it means to represent a client in crisis. They carry a passion for improving lives into their law practice, and the result is a growing number of attorneys who understand the broad array of problems that victims of family violence encounter. Students who’ve worked in the Family Violence Clinic become attorneys who are committed to helping victims find safety, security, and justice.”

For more information about any of the Clinics, please contact John Craft at jcraft@faulkner.edu. To make a donation to support these services, please contact Rachel Miller at rmiller@faulkner.edu.