Leader chosen for nation’s first legal clinic solely dedicated to victims of child sexual abuse

UGA law school alumna returns to help survivors, train new attorneys

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia School of Law has named Emma M. Hetherington the inaugural director of the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic, the first of its kind in the nation.

“As the work of this important clinic gets underway, we are delighted to have identified a highly capable leader who has demonstrated a true commitment to serving those who too often have no voice,” said Georgia Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge. “Emma’s background combined with her passion for advocating on behalf of victims will allow this clinic to make a positive impact as a meaningful avenue for providing public service to our state.”

Hetherington returns to her alma mater from private practice, where she represented individuals in child welfare dependency proceedings and special education cases as well as survivors of child sexual assault and exploitation. Her experience also includes work with the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless and the DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center.

“I have dedicated my legal career to the defense of abused and neglected children and am honored to have been given this incredible opportunity to continue those efforts while helping to train a new generation of attorneys,” Hetherington said. “I greatly sympathize with how helpless victims often feel and am encouraged that we will be able to provide them hope that their perpetrators will not continue to go unpunished.”

Erica J. Hashimoto, Georgia Law associate dean for clinical programs and experiential learning, said law students participating in the Wilbanks clinic will learn firsthand how to work with and represent survivors of sexual abuse and their families. “Given the sensitive and complex nature of the cases that the clinic will bring forth, it is important that the director be someone who not only has legal experience but also the gift of reaching clients. We are confident Emma Hetherington is the right choice for this groundbreaking program.”

It is anticipated that many of the clinic’s first clients will be survivors and their families who are able to bring civil charges forward as a result of Georgia’s Hidden Predator Act, which was passed in 2015.

The clinic was established by a gift made by Georgia Law 1986 alumnus Marlan B. Wilbanks last fall.

UGA School of Law

Consistently regarded as one of the nation’s top public law schools, Georgia Law was established in 1859. Its accomplished faculty includes authors of some of the country’s leading legal scholarship. The school offers three degrees – the Juris Doctor, the Master of Laws and the Master in the Study of Law – and is home to the Dean Rusk International Law Center. Georgia Law is proud of its long tradition of providing first-rate legal training for future leaders who will serve state and nation in both the public and private sectors. For more information, see www.law.uga.edu.