$276,000 Grant From U.S. Education Department to Allow UB Law Clinic to Expand Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: August 17, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A three-year, $276,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education will allow the University at Buffalo School of Law to expand its domestic violence clinical program from part-time to full-time status and to enlarge its focus to include the entire family, not just the spouse or partner.

The new "holistic approach" -- examining the impact of domestic violence on the family as a whole -- is an unusual one for a law school clinic to take, notes R. Nils Olsen, professor of law and director of clinical programs.

"It's important to be dealing with reality," Olsen says. "Families are impacted by this behavior, not just the victims; children are impacted by this."

The grant will allow the law school to hire an instructor who is a specialist in juvenile rights, in addition to expanding to full-time status the current instructor in the clinic.

"Most other law school clinical programs only provide direct legal services to the victims, Olsen says. "We're trying to recognize that the problem of domestic violence goes beyond that, without losing sight of providing assistance to the victims. We're addressing the impact of the problem on the family."

The UB clinical program also differs from others in that students are heavily involved in policy issues regarding domestic violence. For example, rather than working directly with the police on specific cases, students assisted the Buffalo Police Department in developing a pro-arrest policy.

Students also are working with the Niagara County District Attorney's Office, researching and collecting data on domestic violence in the county to try to develop a complete understanding of the dimensions of the problem, including developing a strategy for appropriate intervention.

Expansion of the clinic to full-time status will significantly increase the service the clinic can provide, Olsen says.

"Operating in a part-time mode has limited what the clinic has been able to do," he says. "The grant will allow a significant increase in our instructional resources and increase our involvement in the community.

"In the past, the Domestic Violence Clinic has had uncertain funding; now we'll have a relatively firm grip for a couple of years."

The grant is the second the law school currently holds under the federal education department's Clinical Experience Program. The development clinics -- which include the Community Economic Development Clinic and the Housing Development Clinic -- are in the second year of a three-year, $279,000 grant. Since the early 1980s, the law school has received more than $1 million under the program.