Training Coordinators Help Student Volunteers Learn Core Skills

For the majority of students, IFAP is their first hands-on, legal experience. As a result, we continue to modify our training and workshop opportunities to help improve and hone students legal skills. 

This year students attended five hours of group training that focused on immigration law and the U-Visa process, working with domestic violence survivors, utilizing interpreters, and the mechanics of managing a case.  In addition to the initial group training, and quarterly check-ins to monitor the progress of the cases, we offer workshops throughout the winter and spring quarters that allow smaller groups of students to learn from each other and Signe Dortch, Immigration Clinic Director . Some of the core skills we are focusing on include:

1. Interviewing and Counseling: We provide basic training to students about how to interview and work with survivors of domestic violence. We also provide interpreter training as many students will need to use one when working with their clients. Once students start working with their attorneys they learn more interviewing techniques from them as well as through trial and error with the client. Additionally, the Interviewing Skills Workshop provides basic guidance to students in this area.

2. Evidence Gathering: To complete a U-Visa application students must collect a variety of supporting materials for their client’s petition. Students learn to take the initiative by obtaining police reports, court documents, and letters of support. They also learn how to navigate law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices in order to obtain certifications.

3. Legal Writing: For many students, the client’s declaration is their first non-academic legal writing experience. This year we are offering three workshops that will focus on declaration writing. At the first workshop, Signe Dortch lead students through the process of analyzing and organizing their notes into a draft declaration. At the final two workshops, students will bring drafts and exchange them with other students to make improvements. Signe Dortch also provides individualized help to students as needed.

4. Legal Ethics: IFAP provides many students with their first exposure to legal ethics. At our trainings, we stress that students cannot give legal advice and we also discuss client confidentiality. Throughout the case, supervising attorneys are expected to explain and help students when other ethical issues arise.

5. Professionalism: IFAP allows students to learn what it is really like to work for a client and with other attorneys. Even students with prior work experience get meaningful exposure to different aspects of the legal culture
and learn how to build trusting relationships with their clients and supervising attorneys. Moreover, students learn to interact with third parties in a professional way in order to obtain documentation and certifications.

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