One of my apprehensions in committing to law school was the adversarial process and the impact on families and children in the judicial process. The Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) Student Fellows Program has been instrumental in reassuring me that my pursuit of a legal career was the right decision. Throughout this semester, my colleagues and I have learned a different side of the law grounded in Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) and the Ecology of Human Development. TJ is a holistic approach that aims to address the legal and non-legal issues of clients while incorporating interdisciplinary methods to address the root issue(s) and providing the necessary resources to empower clients to regain ownership of their lives and problems. The Ecology of Human Development looks at each litigant’s environment individually to customize a solution to fit their individual needs.
These brand new concepts and programs were introduced to us through classroom discussions, guest speakers, and (my personal favorite) field trips to see these concepts in action! From guest speakers and visits to the Unified Family Court to seminar topics dealing with Preventive Law, Court Reform in Family Law, Collaborative Law, the Juvenile Justice System, and Problem Solving Courts, the CFCC Student Fellows have been exposed to a hidden side of law that I suspect is concealed from even most practicing attorneys.
This year also marks the fifteenth anniversary of the creation of Maryland’s Family Divisions. While this major milestone deserves a celebration (stay tuned for a date), it is also a reason to pause, reflect, and assess the implementation of the mission and goals of the Family Division. My CFCC project this semester was to assist in planning the fifteen year celebration, including analyzing survey results from Circuit Court Judges and Masters to learn about their attitudes and court practices with respect to addressing the needs of families and children in the family court. The mission of the Family Division is to provide comprehensive services early on in the litigation process to improve the lives of families and children who appear before the court. Preliminary survey results indicate that while judicial officers find it important to have and integrate interdisciplinary solutions, the implementation is lacking. To see the concepts we’ve learned all semester being recognized and requested by the judiciary is encouraging.
As we wrapped up this semester last Wednesday, I realized how influential this class has been to me. This class has taught me to practice law more holistically, which not only will benefit clients but additionally will reassure me that I can make a substantial impact in the lives of my future clients. I truly believe the experience and concepts of the CFCC Student Fellows Program should be integrated throughout the law school curriculum so that all future lawyers are trained to practice law more holistically. Until then, I encourage my fellow students at UB Law to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity and enroll in the CFCC Student Fellows Program I to learn about the therapeutic side of law.