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Legal Clinic Terminology
Legal clinics are practices which serve public interest. Lawyers may provide advice or represent clients at little to no cost. Free, or pro bono services, may be accepted on a client by client basis. Many, though not all, are associated with a university. Some legal clinics specialize in one particular area of law. Understanding some of the different specialties can help with selecting the best legal clinic for aid.
Family Law - Practices which address issues surrounding families, such as civil unions, adoption, child custody, or divorce.
Domestic Violence - Physical or emotional assault between family members. Domestic violence may involve physical harm, or threats of harm. Many lawyers specializing in family law also represent domestic violence cases.
Immigration Law - Addresses issues surrounding immigration. Attorneys can provide advice and information for issues such as gaining citizenship, establishing dual citizenship, and work visas. Many immigration lawyers work closely with the local international community.
Criminal Law - Legal proceedings relating to crime. Unlike civil law, which addresses conflicts between two private parties, criminal law involves the state. All accused parties have the right to criminal defense and aid.
Environmental Law - Addresses disputes over natural resources. Pollution, conservation, and management of resources are all addressed by environmental law. Larger cases may involve an entire community.
Bankruptcy - Type of law practice addressing finances. A person unable to pay debts may file bankruptcy. Lawyers can provide advice and guidance in evaluating whether bankruptcy is an appropriate route.
Civil Rights - Address social justice issues. May include cases involving discrimination based on characteristics such as gender, race, sexual orientation, and age.
Need legal help? Seek out a legal clinic. Such clinics provide help through advice, referrals, consultations, and representation. Although the information is general in nature, you can always get referrals to lawyers that specialize in what you need, such as child custody, family, or domestic violence law.
Used as a form of empowerment, legal clinics can be valuable in terms of giving people the power and choice to make a decision about their situation. Legal clinics may have websites or 800 numbers where people can call for free information and aid on litigation, filing procedures, and support. Many offer free initial consultations in the office.
Legal clinics are comprised of attorneys, or students looking to become attorneys, who can aid you in your quest for legal information. These law school programs give valuable hands-on practical experience to students who wish to be a lawyer in the near future. Directed by clinical professors within the law school, legal clinics are known for doing pro bono work, which means they provide legal advice for free. Students and volunteers put in lots of hours to get credit for their courses and to gain insight into their career. Legal clinics may also encompass pre-paid legal plans, which puts lawyers on a monthly retainer.
Just because you get advice from a legal clinic doesn’t always mean that you've hired an attorney to represent you. That is a separate step that you must take care of, although many legal clinics will provide listings of qualified attorneys. From there, you can make an appointment with a licensed attorney regarding your criminal or civil defense. If you feel you are at a disadvantage in the eyes of the law, seek justice through legal clinics.