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New Online Trainings for Attorneys to Assist Domestic Violence Survivors Now Available

Interactive trainings will prepare attorneys to represent survivors in restraining order proceedings

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) and the Massachusetts Legal Aid Websites Project have launched a new free online training for attorneys representing domestic violence survivors in 209A Restraining Order proceedings.  The free one-hour course provides attorneys with an interactive overview of the restraining order process.  A companion online course provides attorneys with strategies to build an effective attorney client relationship with survivors of domestic abuse. www.masslegalservices.org/dvtraining

Concerns about domestic violence have escalated during the COVID pandemic. “More than ever, lawyers are needed to represent survivors of domestic violence seeking restraining orders,” said Jamie Sabino, Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime (CLAVC) attorney at MLRI. “It is always difficult for survivors  to represent themselves in court proceedings without the help of a lawyer. This challenge has been compounded because many court hearings are now being held virtually.  Survivors now face significant technological barriers on top of the longstanding difficulties they have confronted in trying to navigate a maze of unfamiliar court procedures and rules, during a time of great physical and emotional distress.”The course follows the restraining order process from the beginning to the end, and includes links to key forms and relevant court rules. Throughout the course, users are given a series of “knowledge checks” to apply what they have learned. It was developed as part of the CLAVC initiative, a statewide program funded by the Massachusetts Office for Victims Assistance. CLAVC attorneys help victims of crime throughout Massachusetts with their related legal needs, including obtaining 209A restraining orders. www.MassCLAVC.org

In addition to training CLAVC staff attorneys to handle 209As and to develop effective attorney client relationships, the training will expand the capacity of volunteer attorneys to represent survivors in these proceedings. "Significantly, October is both Domestic Violence Awareness month and Pro Bono month,” said Sarah Lee, staff attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project. ”As coordinator of a volunteer lawyer 209A panel, I witness firsthand the important work volunteer lawyers do to assist survivors of domestic violence. These cases are challenging, but to our clients--coming to us in moments of crisis--the representation and support our volunteers provide is crucial." 

The series was developed  by a team at MLRI, with support from domestic violence experts from Community Legal Aid, De Novo Center for Justice and Healing, Foley Hoag LLP, Greater Boston Legal Services, MetroWest Legal Services, Northeast Legal Aid, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, the Women’s Bar Foundation, and ThinkingKap, an online curriculum developer.

The courses are available for free download at www.masslegalservices.org/dvtraining along with links to attorney volunteer opportunities.

“These online, interactive 209A training courses are wonderful.” said Susan M. FInegan, Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission.  “We know that many attorneys are eager to provide pro bono assistance and would welcome the chance to familiarize themselves with new practice areas, but time is limited.  These on-demand modules allow attorneys to train themselves at a time and place convenient to their schedules.  We anticipate that this will greatly expand the number of attorneys available across the state to help victims of domestic violence secure needed protection and relIn addition to training CLAVC staff attorneys to handle 209As and to develop effective attorney client relationships, the training will expand the capacity of volunteer attorneys to represent survivors in these proceedings.”

The CLAVC Initiative is supported by the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance through a Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

 


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