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The number of law schools offering domestic violence courses has more than tripled in the last seven years, but more work remains, according to a recent study by the American Bar Association. An earlier ABA report, issued in 1997, found that 57 law schools addressed domestic violence in some way, but the latest report lists 185 law schools, including those at the University of Alabama, Temple University and Gonzaga University, that now offer a wide range of courses that deal with domestic violence. “There’s been a recognition of a dire need to increase the number of lawyers to represent domestic violence victims,” said Lisa Stein, chair of the ABA’s Commission on Domestic Violence. Estimates show that 70% to 80% of female domestic violence victims do not have legal representation, Stein added. The committee has sent the report to the deans of every law school in hopes they will recognize the prevalence of domestic violence issues in numerous fields of law, and implement examples into their curriculum. The report focuses on the benefits of exposing law students to a curriculum involving domestic violence, considering the services law schools can provide for victims, such as assisting through trials or filing court documents, Stein said. Elizabeth Schneider, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, said some law schools have not yet added domestic violence curricula because many lack qualified professors, or they fear that they will be viewed as “soft” for offering courses dealing with social issues. Schneider noted that mobilization by students and faculty at various campuses has driven the demand for more domestic violence classes. “It doesn’t happen at schools unless students and the faculty drive it,” she said. And one person on campus can make a difference. The report specifically credits Emily Sach, an associate professor at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, with “transforming a law school’s approach” on the issue. Sach began teaching at the school in 2001, and started a program in which students could fulfill their 20-hour pro bono requirement by working with a local advocacy group that helps victims of domestic violence in court. The complexity of issues surrounding domestic violence requires that anyone who aspires to work in criminal or family law should have an understanding of the issues that arise when they represent a client involved in domestic violence, Sach said. “Domestic violence is not something that is an intuitively understood topic,” Sach said. “As a lawyer it is very important to know all of these issues.” Landau’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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