People with important legal matters are often unable to afford representation. As a result, most parties with family law cases handle these cases themselves. Often, they rely upon brief advice clinics to help them do so. Law schools are required to provide pro bono opportunities for all law students. These pro bono opportunities can include volunteering at brief advice clinics together with volunteer attorneys. Is this a match made in heaven or a disaster waiting to happen?
Pro bono law students vary in their professional demeanor and skills interacting with clients in a brief advice clinic. They have a strong desire to help and to display their knowledge, but this sometimes creates problems and results in the clients getting less than adequate services. The attorneys who volunteer also vary in their skills as supervisors. Some provide a flood of information for the student, covering much more than the student can absorb and the particular client will need to know. Others are able to simultaneously instruct the student about the law and process while giving the student scripts to convey information and advice to the clients. Finally, these clients are challenging to interview and counsel. They invariably raise additional questions, but do not always provide the context or reason for their questions. This study closely analyzes the student-client dialogues and the student-attorney dialogues to identify what works and what does not at a student-staffed pro se clinic.
Smith, Linda F., "Listen Up: Conversation Analysis Shows How Law Students Fail-and Succeed-in a Brief Advice Clinic" (2017). Utah Law Faculty Scholarship. 68.