FIU LAW practice to help low income families

Belen Sassone/Contributing Writer

The College of Laws family law initiative, FIU LAW Practice, is preparing to launch a service aimed at providing legal services to families who fall within the 125 and 200 percent of poverty guidelines, according to officials.

The legal clinics will allow families in the low and middle-class to be represented by an attorney when they go to court for a fee that they can afford.

Karim Batista, who will serve as the managing attorney, believes that this initiative is important because about 80 percent of families in Miami-Dade County are going to court without representation because they cannot afford an attorney.

At his private practice, Batista charges about $250 per hour with a $3,000 deposit. Batista says that the FIU clinics, however, will charge based on a sliding scale, but those seeking services can expect to pay anywhere from $75-150/hr with about a $1,000 retainer. They will also offer individual payment plans for each case.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW

(Left to right) Tawia Baidoe Ansah, the acting dean of Law; Michelle Mason, senior associate dean and community liaison of FIU Law Practice; and Karim Batista, FIU Law’s managing attorney stand in front of the newly opened Law Practice during the ribbon cutting ceremony. Photo courtesy of Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW

Batista is an FIU graduate and has been teaching at the  school of law since 2014. Batista has also given seminars on domestic violence and family law for the paralegal program.

Batista says that his involvement is the result of, the totality of everything. Of being a graduate, teaching there already, opening my own practice, and having the experience of running my own practice.

Michelle Mason, senior associate dean for clinical education FIU College of Law, who will serve as the community liaison for the initiative. Mason, like Batista, discovered that many families in the middle-class are showing up to court without representation.

The two got together and brainstormed on how to find a way to help families while educating their students. Mason found a similar program at Georgetown Law and liked what they were doing, so she used the model to help her write a proposal.

Mason said that this initiative is about helping families in need of legal help rather than competing with lawyers who are doing the work for regular rates.

The clinic will also offer two fellowship opportunities– one in the fall and one in the spring– for FIU students who passed the bar exam this year. Results are expected to be sent out in September.

Batista says that he will mentor the fellows, teaching them about retainer agreements, how to get clients, and other important skills of the trade. Fellows will also have access to the college’s resources such as computers.

As the community liaison, Mason will go out and talk to people and do presentations in order to get the word out on what the clinics are offering. She believes that there may be FIU students who may be in need of these services as well, so having them become aware will be helpful for everyone.


Michelle Mason, senior associate dean and community liaison of FIU Law Practice cuts the ribbon to symbolize the opening of the new FIU Law practice service. Photo by Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW.

In order to receive services, those who are interested will need to fill out an application for evaluation. The clinics will be hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony on August 25 and an intake event on the following day for those interested to fill out applications and be evaluated.

The services will begin on September 11, 2017 according to FIU’s College of Law website.





Featured image by Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW