Barton Policy and Legislative Clinics

The Barton Policy and Legislative Clinics are committed to evidence-based reforms to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the juvenile court, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems.

Child law and juvenile policy reform, while an important end in itself, also serves as the vehicle to provide experiential learning of skills and tools that make lawyers effective in a wide range of settings. Examples include government agencies, public interest law offices, advocacy groups or think tanks, legislative staffs, service as an elected official, and lobbying at state and federal levels. Skills such as drafting, research, collaboration, and negotiation are also invaluable in business and transactional settings. 

Lawyers who practice in the public interest face a range of choices about which issues are most salient and what measures are best adapted to accomplishing desired goals. The purpose of this clinic is to engage students in the process of policy development, from conceptualization to the drafting of concrete proposals for reform. Working in teams, students begin by identifying and researching real life problems relating to children and youth. Research is both data-driven and reality-based and involves examining scientific or statistical data as well as interaction with stakeholders and people affected by the problem. Teams explore options for addressing the problem—for example, through administrative policy changes, public education, legislation, litigation, or a combination of such initiatives. Teams produce blueprints to guide reform efforts and receive detailed feedback on their work product. Students also participate in ongoing initiatives in the Georgia child advocacy community and in building and sustaining partnerships with state agencies such as the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Office of the Child Advocate, and the Division of Family and Children’s Services and with public interest entities such as Voices for Georgia’s Children, Southern Center for Human Rights, and the A Future Not A Past campaign. Examples of recent initiatives Policy Clinic students have worked on include the development of a university policy and training curriculum for mandated reporters of child abuse, recommendations for improvement of systemic oversight of psychotropic medications prescribed to children in foster care, and improvements to policy and service delivery for children who run away from foster care. 

Students are expected to work a minimum of 150 hours in the clinic over the semester (approximately 11 hours per week including the weekly clinic meeting) and receive 3 units of credit for their work.

Students work cooperatively in interdisciplinary teams to multiply their individual skills and knowledge. Each team project is supervised by a clinic faculty member. 

Lawyers engaged in public interest work must know how to navigate the legislative process. The purpose of this clinic is to engage students in the real-world process of taking a reform from the proposal stage to actual enactment. The Barton Center has developed a strong presence in the Georgia public interest community and in the Georgia legislature. Building on this foundation, students hone their advocacy skills by interacting with legislators and elected officials around current law reforms spearheaded by Barton and its community partners. They attend legislative sessions and present evidence-based testimony in support of initiatives. They live the life of a lobbyist, experiencing first-hand the realities of relationship-building and compromise that are hallmarks of the legislative process. Students also provide technical assistance to legislators and other stakeholders in assessing the merits and legality of various proposals. Examples of recent legislation spearheaded by Barton include increased protections for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, expanding the scope of the state’s mandatory child abuse reporting statute, and passage of a comprehensive revision to Georgia’s Juvenile Code. 

Students are expected to work a minimum of 150 hours in the clinic over the semester (approximately 11 hours per week including the weekly clinic meeting) and receive 3 units of credit for their work.

Students work cooperatively in interdisciplinary teams to multiply their individual skills and knowledge. Each team project is supervised by a clinic faculty member.

The Emory Summer Child Advocacy Program (ESCAP) provides students from Emory and around the country with a summer opportunity to experience child advocacy in action. Program participants are given an intensive and comprehensive training in child law and policy. With this background, they are prepared to work in child advocacy settings across Georgia, including juvenile courts, nonprofit organizations, and public interest law firms. Barton Center faculty provide substantive programming and facilitate periodic meetings to enable participants to reflect on their experiences and collaborate with other interns. Community partners have included the Fulton Office of Child Attorneys, the Georgia Advocacy Office, the Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Justice for Children, the Office of the Child Advocate, Douglas County Juvenile Court, Newton County Juvenile Court, and many more.

Applications and information for Summer 2015 will be posted in October 2014 on the Barton Center's community site www.bartoncenter.net »

Eligibility: The Barton Public Policy Clinic (fall semester) and Legislative Advocacy Clinic (spring semester) are open to second- and third-year law students. Enrollment in the clinics is also open to students from the Rollins School of Public Health, the Candler School of Theology, and Georgia State University’s School of Social Work. Students may enroll for one semester or, with the permission of the director, for an entire year.

Prerequisites/Co-requisites:Students must have taken or be concurrently enrolled in Child Welfare Law and Policy. This requirement may be waived by the director if the student has participated in the Emory Summer Child Advocacy Program or has other significant substantive children’s law experience. Admission to the Public Policy and Legislative Advocacy Clinic is competitive, and students are offered placements on a rolling basis. Interviews are scheduled as applications are received and decisions are made shortly after the interviews.

The Public Policy and Legislative Advocacy Clinic Application:Students may submit their application through Symplicity or by emailing all required materials to Melissa Carter, melissa.d.carter@emory.edu » The application includes the following documents:

  • Resume
  • Transcript
  • Writing sample
  • Personal statement (describe in detail your interest in participating in the Public Policy (or Legislative Advocacy) Clinic. Identify any special qualifications, academic interests, experience, and career goals that support your application.

Application Deadline

Applications for Spring 2015 are due in October 2014.  Specific dates will be posted in September 2014.