People of SU / Society / Justice and Law

Law School Gift will Transform Legal Aid

February 1, 2022

Exterior of brick building with signage that reads: Seattle University School of Law. Underneath text reads: Sullivan Hall.

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A $5 million gift to the School of Law’s Family Law program will serve more students training as family law lawyers and expand legal aid efforts to help domestic violence survivors.

Survivors of domestic violence and residents of underserved communities will have greater access to family law services and legal aid thanks to the Moccasin Lake Foundation’s unprecedented $5 million gift to Seattle University School of Law. The gift will help create a pipeline of law graduates prepared to help families in need across the state.

“Seattle University is deeply grateful to the Moccasin Lake Foundation for its visionary gift in support of our law school’s access to justice commitment,” says Eduardo M. Peñalver, Seattle University president and law professor. “Family law, including domestic violence matters, is an area where the stakes are high, the needs are great and where access to effective legal assistance makes all the difference. This gift will immediately strengthen our ability to educate the next generation of powerful advocates for justice.”

As Dean Annette E. Clark, ’89, notes, “This is the largest single gift in the law school’s history and will have a transformative impact on our family law curriculum and make us a national leader in this area.”

It will provide for an endowment that will enable the law school to:

  • Establish an endowed chair in Family Law.

  • Develop and expand educational courses that provide family law services involving domestic violence, protection orders and family law representation.

  • Support student scholarships and fellowships for law students and recent graduates with an interest in family law/domestic violence law.

  • Implement infrastructure to enhance remote legal access to family services in underserved communities throughout the state.

  • Create educational campaigns to increase awareness of domestic violence and ways for vulnerable communities to get help.

  • Stage community engagement events and projects dedicated to research and advocacy surrounding domestic violence, survivor support, family law and access to justice.

“The Moccasin Lake Foundation could not be more pleased and delighted to support the creation of this endowed chair and program in Family Law at the Seattle University law school,” says Lisa Anderson, Moccasin Lake Foundation treasurer. “Our foundation has long sought to support those who protect the vulnerable and fight for the rights and safety of women and children.”

The gift was inspired by law school alumna and family member Erin Kenway’s, ’08, passion for supporting survivors of domestic violence and her deep desire to increase access to legal aid for underserved communities, says Anderson.

“Seattle University has a long history of service to the dignity of all people and to social justice. As a longtime member of the community and the Moccasin Lake Foundation, I can't think of a better educational institution than the School of Law to include this newly formed Family Law program to support survivors of domestic violence. Providing legal aid and support to survivors of domestic violence has long been an underfunded and overlooked area in Washington state and I am so grateful that this will begin to change.”

The gift will help the law school build on the efforts of Deirdre Bowen, associate professor of law, who created a law clinic in the early days of the pandemic to address an alarming surge in domestic violence. To date, her students have helped more than 500 survivors—many who are low-income and lack the resources to hire attorneys—complete court-required online legal forms, the first step in filing protection orders. Using remote technology and key partnerships with community groups, Bowen will expand the clinic’s reach, enabling it to help many more survivors.

“With the foundation’s generous backing, Seattle University Law will be able to provide much needed family law services while at the same time delivering an immersive, hands-on training experience for our students so they can become family law attorneys and powerful advocates immediately upon graduation,” says Bowen, who will serve as the school’s first Moccasin Lake Foundation Endowed Chair in Family Law.

Part of the gift will help the law school expand the reach of its domestic violence law clinic to areas of the state with few lawyers, what Bowen calls “legal deserts.” She envisions enrolling students who hail from these regions, training them to become family law and domestic violence lawyers and helping them to either set up practices or find positions in their home communities. Already, several students who participated in the clinic and have since graduated are now practicing family law and Bowen believes the gift will help many more law students prepare for this legal career path.

To learn more about Seattle University School of Law and The Moccasin Lake Foundation visit:


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