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University of Missouri Law School reinstates clinic to help low-income residents


The University of Missouri Law School has reinstated its Child and Family Justice Clinic to provide free legal assistance to people involved in domestic relation cases in Boone County.

The Clinic represents low-income residents living in Boone County who cannot afford a private attorney. It focuses on domestic violence cases, but also helps clients with things like child custody, adoption and divorce cases.

Second and third-year law students assist clients with paperwork, counseling and court appearances. Eight students participated in the clinic's first semester, with ten scheduled for the fall.

Third-year law student Victoria Mantel said she worked with a peer this semester to get a client an order of protection. Their client had survived a serious domestic violence situation and Mantel said it was an emotional and eye-opening experience to work with them.

"When the judge granted the order of protection for our client, I was about to burst into tears I was so happy," Mantel said. "Now, moving forward with the name change, it has been a deeply emotionally-satisfying experience for me."

Mantel is graduating this spring, and is going to work as a law librarian to teach students about legal research. She said being able to see how this student-clinic has run this semester has been a great experience that has made her excited for her future.

"I want to make sure that my students are ready to go out and do what they want to do and prioritizing marginalized communities like our clinic does," Mantel said.

Law students are supervised by faculty attorney and clinic director Danielle Dodd. Dodd said domestic violence is an isolating crime which causes many victims not to reach out for help. On top of that, she said people often need assistance with legal paperwork.

"Having a clinic like this that makes it easier for them to receive those services was really important," Dodd said.

Data from World Population Review shows Missouri ranks seventh in the nation for domestic violence against women. Data shows 41.8% of Missouri women experience violence, sexual violence or stalking by an intimate partner.

The same data from World Population Review shows 35.2% of Missouri men have experienced the same kind of domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking.

Boone County Prosecutor Roger Johnson said homicide cases involving domestic violence have increased over the last couple years and said things like orders of protection help keep people safe.

"It's really critical for those people to have somebody that can sit with them and shepherd them through the process, and especially somebody with legal training who can advocate on their behalf" Johnson said.

The Child and Family Justice Clinic helped between 6-8 clients in its first semester, according to Dodd. The clinic is currently limited to Boone County residents, but she said there are hopes to expand it to other Mid-Missouri counties in the future.

She said it provides great hands-on experience for students to interact with real clients.

"This allows us to put out competent lawyers who have seen court, that have drafted documents before they are on their own," Dodd said.

Dodd said the clinic is completely funded by the state legislature. While representation is free, clients will be responsible for any court fees or costs.

People wanting to be represented by the Child and Family Justice Clinic can fill out a contact form on the clinic's website. Dodd said they also work closely with stakeholders such as True North of Columbia, Mid-Missouri Legal Services and ParentLink and are able to work with their clients, as well.

Article Topic Follows: University of Missouri

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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