Children's Rights Clinic

"Children are among the most vulnerable people in our society. By being their advocate, we help give them a voice."

~Professor Julie Waterstone, Director of the Children's Rights Clinic

The Children's Rights Clinic offers students an opportunity to participate in educational rights work, including direct representation of children and families in school discipline and special education matters, community outreach and education. Clinic students will have an opportunity to represent children in school discipline proceedings, represent children with disabilities in special education proceedings, or work with community groups to advocate for better and more equitable educational opportunities for children.

The Children's Rights Clinic includes a mandatory training session to be held at the beginning of the term, a two-hour weekly classroom component that focuses on legal skills, issues in the law and case review, and a half hour weekly meeting with the clinic professor. This is a graded course. There is no paper and no exam. Students will be graded based on a set of criteria given to them at the beginning of the semester. Students must have successfully completed their first year of law school, be in good academic standing, and have taken or are currently enrolled in Evidence. Enrollment is limited to 4 students per semester. In order to participate in the clinic, students must submit an application and resume to Professor Waterstone, Director of the Children's Rights Clinic, and obtain her approval before registering. Applications are available from the Clinic in W408, the Registration and Academic Records Office in W102, or online.

Southwestern students may find the application and other Legal Clinic details on the MySWLAW portal (log-in required).

Sample Law Student Application - for reference only (PDF)

The Children's Rights Clinic provides representation to low-income children in the areas of school discipline, special education and other education-related issues. The clinic is staffed by law students who represent clients under the supervision of Professors Julie Waterstone and Jenny Fee. Students have the opportunity in a real-life context to hone their lawyering skills such as interviewing, negotiating, counseling, pre-trial litigation, and oral advocacy.

School Discipline Cases

Students working on school discipline cases will interview and counsel clients, investigate and develop facts, interview witnesses, conduct legal research, create a case plan, negotiate with school personnel, and, if necessary, represent clients at school discipline hearings. These hearings provide the opportunity for clinic students to submit oral and written argument, examine witnesses, and present evidence before the school board. If appropriate, clinic students may have the opportunity to represent students on appeal before the county board of education.

Working in teams of two, clinic students assigned to school discipline cases interview children, their parents or guardians, their teachers, social workers, and any other person with information about the child to prepare for the discipline proceeding. Clinic students review the child's school file and engage in informal discovery to gather all of the relevant facts. In many cases, students have the opportunity to negotiate with school district personnel in an attempt to informally resolve the matter. If these efforts are not successful, students prepare for an administrative hearing before a panel of school board members, which includes trial preparation and writing a trial brief. At the hearing, students present evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and give an opening and closing statement. If the hearing does not provide a satisfactory result, students may appeal the case to the Los Angeles County Board of Education. In preparing for the hearing before the Board of Education, students review the earlier transcripts, draft an appeal brief, and prepare for and ultimately engage in oral argument.

Special Education Cases

Students working on special education cases will interview and counsel clients, investigate and develop facts, work with mental health professionals and experts, conduct legal research, create a case plan, and represent clients at individualized education program team meetings. If necessary, students may represent clients at mediation or due process hearings.

Students working on special education cases interview children, their parents, teachers, social workers, and any other person with information about the child in preparation for the Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. Clinic students review the child's school file and engage in informal discovery to gather all of the relevant facts. Students then have the opportunity to advocate and negotiate on the child's behalf at the IEP meeting. If that process does not adequately satisfy the child's needs, students draft and file complaints with either the California Department of Education or the Office of Administrative Hearings. If the case moves forward to due process (e.g. by filing a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings), students participate in a mediation conference with the school district. If a resolution is not achieved, students prepare for trial, interview expert witnesses, and draft and file motions and a trial brief. At the hearing, students present evidence, examine witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, and give an opening and closing statement. If the hearing is unsuccessful, students may appeal the case to the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

  1. Children's Rights Clinic - FAQs

    Q: What is clinical education?
    A: Clinical education is a teaching method that combines theory and practice. Its purpose is to teach students how to be lawyers by engaging in the practice of law in a controlled educational environment. In a clinical course, students are given the opportunity to exercise professional judgment while representing actual clients. Students are responsible for all aspects of the client's representation.

    Q: Who does the Clinic represent?
    A: The Children's Rights Clinic provides representation to those children in Los Angeles County who would not otherwise be able to obtain legal representation. Clients range in age from 3 to 22 and may also be involved in the dependency or delinquency systems.

    Q: What types of cases will students work on in the Clinic?
    A: Students in the Children's Rights Clinic represent youth in school discipline proceedings, or youth with special needs in special education proceedings where discipline or behavior is an issue, or work with community groups to advocate for better and more equitable educational opportunities for youth.

    Q: What do students do in the Children's Rights Clinic?
    A: Students working on school discipline cases interview and counsel clients, investigate and develop facts, interview witnesses, conduct legal research, create a case plan, negotiate with school personnel, and, if necessary, represent clients at school discipline hearings. These hearings provide the opportunity for clinic students to submit oral and written argument, examine witnesses, and present evidence before the school board. If appropriate, clinic students may have the opportunity to represent students on appeal before the county board of education.

    Students working on special education cases interview and counsel clients, investigate and develop facts, work with mental health professionals and experts, conduct legal research, create a case plan, and represent clients at individualized education program team meetings. If necessary, students may represent clients at mediation or due process hearings.

    Q: What is the community outreach component?
    A: Clinic students will give presentations on school discipline or special education related issues to parent community groups. Students will create the presentations and materials and offer attendees an opportunity to ask questions about their particular education related issue.

    Q: How are cases referred to the Clinic?
    A: Cases are referred to the Children's Rights Clinic from the Dependency Court, the Delinquency Court, non-profit organizations and local parent organizations. Individuals may call the Children's Rights Clinic Intake Line at (213) 738-6621 for a case intake screening.

    Q: What are the eligibility requirements?
    A: To be eligible for the Clinic, students must be in good academic standing. Full time students must have completed their first year of study and part-time students must have completed their second year of study. The only pre/co-requisite for the clinic is Evidence. Other recommended courses are Legal Profession, Children and the Law, Education Law, Special Education Law Seminar, Family Law, Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiation, and Trial Advocacy.

    Q: How do students apply for the Clinic?
    A: Interested students must submit a Children's Rights Clinic application and resume to Professor Waterstone. Students are selected based on their application with priority given to students in their final year of law school and to those who have not had prior in-house clinic experience. Fluency in a relevant language other than English is preferred, but not required. Selection will not be based on academic rank.

    Q: What day and time is the classroom component of the Clinic?
    A: The class meets on Tuesdays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The classroom component focuses on substantive and procedural law, professional responsibility and development of advocacy skills.

    Q: Is a clinical experience beneficial even if I don't plan on practicing in an area relating to children?
    A: Yes, students learn the essentials of case planning, problem solving, strategic thinking, professionalism, client relations, and other skills associated with the practice of law.

    Q: How many units will I receive and how is the clinical experience graded?
    A: The Children's Rights Clinic is a semester course. It is five units and graded; 20% of the grade will be based on class attendance and participation in classroom discussion and 80% of the grade will be based on performance on casework and community work, including relationships with clients, lawyering, research and writing, and office management.