Our clinical program is designed to afford each student the opportunity to engage in the practice of law while in law school by learning through service to underserved communities. We focus on public interest, public service areas of law practice as well as other areas our graduates are likely to encounter in small community-based practices. We examine what it means to be an excellent lawyer in these contexts. While each clinic is focused in a particular area of law, every clinical course is designed to prepare our graduates to be outstanding attorneys in a variety of practice areas.
The innovative quality and programmatic excellence of our clinical programs have been nationally recognized. In addition to the listing in U.S. World and News Report, the Clinics have been awarded major grants and our faculty members are presenters at national and international conferences, as well as bar association meetings.
A student may complete his/her clinical requirements by selecting either a practice or an in-house Clinic which is part of Main Street Legal Services, a public interest law firm located at the Law School.
For third year full-time, and 5th or 7th semester part-time students, we currently offer Practice Clinics in the areas of Equality law, Family and Health law, and six in-house Clinics: Community & Economic Development Clinic, Defender Clinic, Elder Law, Immigrant and Non-Citizens Rights Clinic, Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic and, Mediation. Each of these programs satisfies the Law School graduation requirement of 10-12 clinical credits. For second year full-time students, we also offer an in-house clinic, Economic Justice Project (EJP). Although EJP does not satisfy the graduation requirement, it does provide excellent preparation for a number of other clinics.
STRUCTURE OF CLINICAL COURSES
The Clinics meet in class for 5 – 7 hours per week. In these classes, students learn doctrinal and practice knowledge as well as a broad range of lawyering skills and professional perspectives. Through role-play and demonstration, students learn a variety of core lawyering skills including:
- Problem Solving
- Developing a Theory of Action
- Planning and Reflection
- Time Management
- Interviewing, Counseling and Client Related Skills
- Ethical Practice and Decision Making
In addition to these core skills, different clinics emphasize other important lawyering skills. For example, several programs teach negotiation and litigation skills, while others focus more on drafting and counseling skills. Some of the clinics afford the students an opportunity to work in interdisciplinary programs with social workers and other professionals, learning the skills necessary to work in those settings. All programs ask students to examine issues from a broad social justice perspective. Some programs make this a major focus and devote substantial classroom time to examining the skills needed to become lawyers working to change the material conditions of clients' lives. Students in these courses learn how to work with organizers, international NGOs and how to frame issues and solutions more broadly.
In the classroom, using a case rounds approach, students present cases on which they are working to gain advice from colleagues and to learn from the experiences of all the students in the program.
The Field Component
In the Practice Clinics, students work in carefully selected law offices throughout the New York City area. The students' fieldwork is overseen by the field supervisor with active monitoring of the placement by a member of the faculty. Students benefit from the real world exposure and close working relationships with outside attorneys.
In the in-house Clinics, students work on assigned cases and projects supervised by Law School faculty members. Under the guidance of faculty members who are experienced attorneys, the students are the lawyers on the clinics’ cases, exercising their professional judgment on behalf of clients. The students appear in court, work with other lawyers, collaborate with community organizations and draft agreements.