• Kennedy Hall
Bette & Wylie Aitken Family Protection Clinic

ยป Bette and Wylie Aitken Family Protection Clinic

In 2007, Chapman University's Fowler School of Law created the Family Protection Clinic to address the unique challenges faced by survivors of domestic violence. Located at the secure Orange County Family Justice Center, the clinic is directed by Chapman professors Wendy Seiden and Marisa Cianciarulo. Underwritten through a generous gift from Bette and Wylie Aitken, the clinic provides legal advice, legal assistance and representation to low-income and homeless survivors of domestic violence.

The Aitken Family Protection Clinic serves approximately 150 survivors of family violence annually. In a recent victory, our law students helped a victim of domestic violence who was married to an abusive U.S. citizen. The victim was escorted to a shelter and referred to the Aitken Family Protection Clinic for help. Our students worked with the victim, listened to her story, gathered evidence of the abuse that she and her son suffered, and ultimately filed a petition for relief though the federal Violence Against Women Act. She and her son are now legally living in this country, safe and far away from her attacker. She is legally employed and her son is happy, healthy and in school.

Unlike externships, where student work supports a program director, the Family Protection Clinic gives students primary responsibility for cases and direct interaction with clients. This model is facilitated by special rules that allow students enrolled in clinical courses to do anything a lawyer can do, so long as there is supervision by a licensed attorney. 

The Student Experience

  • Michelle S. ('14)
  • Joanna W. ('13)
  • Michelle Standfield

    "The skills I have learned in the Family Protection Clinic are too numerous to name. Not many law students have the opportunity to experience client interviewing, case planning, preparing for trial or actually participating in a trial proceeding. Realizing that you are dealing with a real case, and a real person's life, brings a sense of urgency. It can be frightening, but it makes the work you put into the case all the more rewarding."

    -Michelle S. (JD '14)

  • Joanna Wong

    "I learned that every client has a story, and every client wants to be heard.  Whether I represented the client in court or just gave advice in a quick counseling session, I had the privilege and honor to give the simple gift of listening, a gift that many abuse victims had been denied for so long. In law school there is a tendency to focus on rights and responsibilities and nuances of the law - and those are all essential - but the clinic offers a very human element that is important to remember and cherish."

    -Joanna W. (J.D. '13)

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Course Information for Students

The clinic offers 3 credits for the semester program, with 10 hours of combined classroom and fieldwork per week. Students may elect to register for the immigration track, which focuses on written advocacy, or the protection order track, which focuses on oral advocacy.

Participating law students will engage in the following activities:

  • client counseling and interviews 
  • fact investigation 
  • legal research 
  • preparation of affidavits 
  • writing legal arguments
  • submitting applications for domestic violence-related protection orders and immigration benefits

Each of these areas are covered extensively in classroom components taught by Professor Julie Marzouk (immigration track) and Professor Wendy Seiden (protection order track).

The course is open to 2L and 3L students. Space is limited, so register early.

Application for Family Protection Clinic (PDF)
Application for Family Protection Clinic (Word)

Thank you to our generous supporters

Bette and Wylie Aitken

Buchalter Nemer

Ann and Dale E. Fowler

Estate of Donald P. Kennedy

Orange County Bar Association

State Bar of California

Wells Fargo Bank

Contact Us

Professor Wendy Seiden, Director and Clinical Professor 

Phone: (714) 628-2636
Email: seiden@chapman.edu