In the Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic (FVWRC), students are invited to join the fight towards attaining justice and safety for survivors of family violence.
Serving the unmet needs of local survivors in Western New York, the Family Violence & Women's Right Clinic seeks to fill the gap to ensure victims of violence receive the proper legal representation needed in many areas of the law, including: family offense petitions, child support, custody, and visitation cases, and divorce.
The Family Violence & Women’s Rights Clinic is proudly funded partially by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and generous donors of the FVWRC.
In 1992, the Clinic was created and founded by then co-directors, Clinical Professor Emeritus Suzanne Tomkins '92 and Dr. Catherine Cerulli, JD PhD '92. The late, beloved Professor Isabel Marcus offered substantial support and input during the formation of the Clinic. In the early years, the Clinic helped to lay the groundwork towards the establishment of an infrastructure which created and supported domestic violence community collaborations in Western New York.
The Clinic helped to develop protocols and policies for many counties, localities, and other public and private domestic violence organizations throughout the eight counties of Western New York and beyond. The Clinic worked with local and statewide advocacy groups to support statewide domestic violence legislative reform. The Clinic placed law students in DV-related placements in Western New York; countless students graduated and became leaders in their fields, assuming leadership positions in the field of family violence.
In 2015, the Clinic was re-structured to a model in which students enrolled in the clinic become certified to practice law under the supervision of clinical faculty. Clinical Professor of Law Judith Olin took over as Clinic Director in 2016, supervising student attorneys with a Student Practice Order from the 4th Department of the Appellate Division. Student Attorneys represent individual victims of violence in civil family cases. While a typical Clinic client earns too much to qualify for a free, or pro bono attorney, the Clinic supports a population that is unable to afford private counsel, thus allowing the students to represent clients who would otherwise go without legal counsel.
Students work closely with staff from the Family Justice Center of Erie County, Child & Family Services Haven House, and other victim serving domestic violence organizations, who refer cases for legal representation.
The Family Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic (FVWRC) celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 1, 2022 with a full day conference, entitled “Pearls of Wisdom: 30 Years of UB Law Clinics Confronting Family Violence in Western New York and Beyond.“ Keynote speaker Professor Joan Meier spoke about her groundbreaking study on child custody outcomes in cases involving parental alienation and abuse allegations. Local distinguished judges, attorneys, academics and victim advocates spoke in three panels including working with underrepresented populations who are survivors of family violence. Student attorneys created poster presentations on Clinic projects, and shared their expertise with conference attendees.