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Courts & Practice

Family Law in the Classroom: Curricula Expansion Needed

February 2010

Family courts have been receiving increasing attention from both the profession and the media, as their dockets grow heavier with the weight of cases that are complex, challenging, and of such consequence to the parties involved. Noting the need for more judges and lawyers in the family court system, the City Bar recently conducted a review of nine area law schools, measuring opportunities provided to study family law.

The report released this month by the Family Court and Law Committee, Survey of Family Law Curricula in New York City and Long Island Law Schools, finds that family law receives less attention than other law concentrations in the amount of high-level courses offered and financial assistance provided for its study. The applauds area schools for making “substantive attempts” to increase the teaching of family law, but notes that the same opportunities are not available in all schools.  Hofstra University School of Law’s Child and Family Advocacy Fellowship Program is noted as an example of strong support for family law study.

The report’s recommendations include increased curricular focus on domestic violence, child abuse, the structure and function of the family law system, and cultural competency, as well as increased recruitment and support for law students seeking to practice family law. Five steps to growing the next class of family law attorneys are outlined, including bolstering financial aid for family law students, adding specialty and high-level family law courses to curricula, hosting academic symposiums on family law issues, and creating a mentorship exchange between family law students and the City Bar’s family-law related committees.

“We hope that this report will encourage New York law schools to expose their students more fully to family law and provide more opportunities for students who are interested in pursuing careers in this compelling field,” said Rebecca Mendel, Chair of the City Bar’s Family Court and Family Law Committee, which authored the report.

The nine law schools that participated in the survey were: Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, Columbia University School of Law, the City University of New York School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, Hofstra University School of Law, New York University School of Law, New York Law School, St. John’s University School of Law, and Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, Touro College.

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