Clinical legal education is a method of teaching in which students learn substantive law and practice in the context of real or simulated problems or cases. The purpose of live client clinics like the Education Advocacy, Immigration, Mediation, and Misdemeanor Clinics is to enable students to develop the skills necessary to become legal professionals of the highest order: critical thinking, a commitment to excellent practice and service, an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of legal systems and professional rules, and a balance between confidence and humility.
In addition to teaching students to build on and improve their analytic and writing skills, clinical pedagogy includes the following goals:
- Teaching students how to plan, analyze and prepare for contingencies and conflicts
- Teaching students to learn from experience
- Instructing students in professional skills and responsibility
- Providing opportunities for collaborative learning and practice
- Exposing students to the actual impact of legal doctrine on real people
- Critiquing the capacities and limitations of lawyers and the legal system
- Providing opportunities to work with professionals from other disciplines
- Assisting students with time management issues
Clinic students, under faculty supervision, will practice law on a day-to-day basis. Clinic students bear the same professional responsibilities to their clients, the courts, and others as lawyers fully admitted to the practice of law.
Although directly supervised by their clinical professor, students ordinarily will be expected to take the lead in developing the attorney-client relationship, litigation strategy, fact investigation, legal research, pleadings, briefs and motions, and any trial work. Accordingly, students will be expected to attend to their casework and other clinic matters daily: at a minimum, to check and respond to messages, mail, and any new or surprising case developments.
As in any litigation context, students can expect their workload over the term to fluctuate. General guidelines for the minimum expected time commitment in addition to class time and clinic orientation are three hours per week per credit hour (i.e., a minimum of 18 hours per week for 6 credits). This number may be calculated as an average for the 13 weeks of the semester, based on the demands of the cases and other clinic course work. Students participating in the summer clinic must work a minimum of ten weeks, but can spread their time over the entire summer. This will be determined with your professor. In any event, students also must be able to budget their time to meet case demands as they arise, and must prioritize clinic obligations over outside employment (for full-time students) and, to the extent possible, over other requirements and commitments that do not involve duties of trust. In other words, it is unacceptable to neglect your responsibility to your clients. This means that clinic is only for those students who are committed to devoting the necessary time, energy, and thought to the course and, most importantly, the clients.