In 2013, Professor Leigh Goodmark had just been hired as a Clinical Law Professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. A nationally known practitioner, scholar and teacher in the field of family law and intimate partner violence, she was given a rare opportunity: the freedom to create a clinic on the subject of her choice.
“I was bored with family law,” says Prof. Goodmark, “and kept returning to gender and violence as overarching themes in so many of the legal issues for which people need the most assistance.” And so the Gender Violence Clinic was born.
Now in its fourth year, the Gender Violence Clinic offers a broader way of thinking about gender violence—gender as the influence for violence, the justification for violence, or a condition under which violence flourishes.
Recent Clinic cases have dealt with immigration, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, LGBTQ discrimination, prisoner rights, and post-conviction relief. In effect, it is a generalist clinic that offers a wide range of legal experiences to students. Supervising students in such a broad range of cases might be daunting to others, but Prof. Goodmark sees it as yet another way of teaching students about the realities of legal practice.
“Students see that I don’t have a mastery of every subject, and that I am often learning alongside them, which is a much more accurate reflection of what students will be expected to do as lawyers,” reflects Goodmark.
That’s not to imply that students aren’t closely supervised—in fact, Prof. Goodmark contends it’s quite the opposite. “In addition to weekly meetings and case memos, I review their work daily through our case management system,” says Prof. Goodmark. “And, most importantly, my door is always open for questions.”
For Lindsay DeFrancesco, a 3L beginning her second semester in the Clinic, the protected freedom of Prof. Goodmark’s supervision offered her the opportunity to take risks and make mistakes. “And I definitely made mistakes,” DeFrancesco laughs, “but Prof. Goodmark never made me feel badly and worked with me every step of the way to figure out the next step—and I will be a better lawyer because of that.”
DeFrancesco is quick to point out that Prof. Goodmark taught her not just how to be a lawyer, but how to be as a lawyer, by prioritizing self-care while lawyering. “I learned life skills from Prof. Goodmark that have already helped me so much to work toward a healthy work-life balance,” says a grateful DeFrancesco.
This year, Prof. Goodmark is excited to be collaborating with the Violence Prevention Program at the University of Maryland Medical Center to offer legal information to people subjected to intimate partner violence.
“Our Clinic students will take turns being ‘on-call’ so that people have the opportunity to receive essential legal information before they leave the hospital,” explains Prof. Goodmark. While she expects the Clinic to continue evolving, for now Prof. Goodmark delights in a Clinical practice that is anything but boring, with legal issues that can be anything or go anywhere.