November 9, 2015
Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or [email protected]
Loyola Law School Clinic Helps Divorcing Couples While Providing Hands-on Experience to Students
(Los Angeles, California) – Seventy percent of all couples getting divorced in California including Los Angeles County are not represented by an attorney. Many couples go it alone (“pro per”) because they cannot afford to pay for legal services. If their case involves support, custody, or other complex issues, they risk making critical mistakes without getting professional legal advice.
The Loyola Law School Center for Conflict Resolution, among the nation’s top mediation programs in the U.S., has been providing pro bono mediation services to low-income clients for 20 years. Loyola is one of the first and only clinics in California offering a Collaborative Divorce services through a mentoring program for law students. Adjunct professor and family law attorney Kevin J. Chroman created and supervises the program. Chroman is an active member of Family Divorce Solutions of San Fernando Valley, a professional Collaborative Practice group using a Consensual Dispute Resolution models.
Chroman’s original intention when the program started in 2013 was to provide a mentoring program for his law students exposing them to real life cases, educating them about the advantages of Collaborative Practice while providing a service to the public. “Many law students are becoming more aware and more comfortable with this area of practice. There are people who are well suited for being mediators and CDR oriented. Now they have a place to go to hone those skills, meet others with those skills, and realize there is something other than being a litigator,” said Chroman.
Participants are second or third year law students who complete the same Collaborative Practice training professionals must complete. Under a clinic attorney’s guidance, they meet directly with clinic clients and perform initial intake and orientation, assist with paperwork and forms, and describe the Collaborative process. “They then shadow the professionals in dispute resolution sessions, and participate in discussions about the case with the professionals on the team,” explained Chroman.
Loyola third-year student Jasmine Gill said the hands-on experience at the Clinic allows her to think on her own. “Meeting with the client without being under someone’s wing is initially nerve racking, but it is so valuable to me. I’m helping someone who doesn’t have a legal voice. That’s what we going to actually be doing, it’s time to do it,” said Gill. Collaborative Practice was new to Gill. “There are so many people who practice litigation, having this experience can only add to my future opportunities,” said Gill, pointing out that many students graduate law school without ever having met with a real client.
Chroman says he sees tremendous growth in his students. “They become better and better about expressing what the client’s interests and concerns are, understanding their situation and they do a good job gathering information. As time goes on, they have impressive insights into the case. It is one of the rare but vital intangibles you don’t always get in law school.”
Clinic hours are held weekly during the school term on Fridays, 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and sometimes beyond. Cases are scheduled through referrals from social service organizations, and are often resolved the same day. Chroman said clients often express gratitude and positive feedback. “One client wrote to the foundation that directed them toward us. They wrote, ‘I really didn’t think this would be effective, but I really felt heard and I am so glad you sent me there (the clinic).’
Chroman was honored for his work establishing the Collaborative Practice program at Loyola’s clinic this year by the statewide professional association Collaborative Practice California with its 2015 Eureka Award. The Eureka Award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions and demonstrated an abiding dedication to establishing and sustaining Collaborative Practice in California.
Chroman says exposing students to real life cases provides future attorneys with practical, problem solving skills while expanding the potential for Collaborative Practice. “The Clinic continues the law school’s longstanding tradition of commitment to pro bono legal service on the cutting edge of family law education. Increasing access to Collaborative Practice for a broader range of family law clients is really our goal while educating the next generation of attorneys at the same time,” said Chroman.
“I am deeply grateful for Professor Mary Culbert and her staff, providing the framework and resources for the clinic, and I am so appreciative of the volunteers’ willingness to give of their time. The Collaborative Mediation Clinic could not have achieved the success it has without those two essential components,” said Chroman.
Formed in October 2011, Family Divorce Solutions of San Fernando Valley (previously known as San Fernando Valley Collaborative Professionals) is comprised of experienced, licensed and trained attorneys, licensed mental health professionals and neutral financial advisors.
Family Divorce Solutions focuses on the practice of Collaborative Dispute Resolution, applied primarily in divorce cases and family law, and also in civil disputes. Attorneys work with mental health professionals and neutral financial experts to offer guidance to clients. FDS members work toward the goal of assisting the clients in reaching an amicable and efficient resolution to their problems without going to court. Learn more at www.familydivorcesolutions.com