Florida State University College of Law's Public Interest Law Center: Dedicated to the pursuit of justice and high professional standards
The College of Law's Public Interest Law Center is building a strong reputation for providing effective legal services to the under-represented. It consists of two clinics: the Family Law Clinic and the Children's Law Clinic. The Center's work has been featured in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, on the CBS television news program 60 Minutes II, and on National Public Radio program This American Life. Internationally, El Pais, Madrid's leading Sunday magazine, and Bild, a prominent German political magazine, have chronicled the Center's advocacy for children in Florida prisons. Recently, Center staff and students have been interviewed for a forthcoming article in a leading Finish children rights magazine.
Just as important as the Center's legal representation is the real-world training it provides Florida State Law students. Founded in 1991, the Center educates second- and third-year law students in legal advocacy with an emphasis on intensive one-on-one and small group instruction. Like a medical school clinical program, the Center provides law students an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice, in this case to develop their lawyering skills and professionalism training and to represent indigent clients in a supervised educational environment. The Center's clinical program is limited to 16 students each semester, although many more apply.
The Center's students earn six academic credits a semester, and are certified by the Florida Supreme Court to practice law under the direct supervision of Professors Paolo Annino and Ruth Stone, the Center's co-directors. Students learn legal practice, legal advocacy, professionalism and law office management. Based largely on the Center's use of law office software, The National Jurist magazine rated the College of Law the 13th Most Wired Law School in the county. The magazine praised the Center's ability to track and maintain virtual files of all of its cases.
The Center is unique among law school clinical programs for providing a broad range of legal services. With approximately 110 on-going cases, it represents children, persons with disabilities, and victims of domestic violence. The Center is involved in jury trials, trial court hearings, federal and state administrative hearings, clemency proceedings, appellate hearings, and juvenile and foster care cases.
The Center works with and accepts case referrals from the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, the Public Defender's Office of the Second Judicial Circuit, Legal Services of North Florida, the Leon County Health Department, the Leon County Boys and Girls Club, and the local domestic violence shelter. One measure of the Center's success is the support it receives from the bar and judiciary. Local and state judges routinely ask the Center's students to represent children in foster care, dependency, emancipation, delinquency and criminal cases. Approximately, one third of the Center's children's cases are appointments from local judges.
The high quality of the Center's legal representation has been rewarded by grants from such organizations as the Federal Department of Justice ($500,000), The Florida Bar Foundation ($480,000), and The Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities ($50,000). The Center also received a $90,000 grant from the Jessie DuPont Foundation to evaluate other legal services providers in Florida.