The Time is Now For Law School Clinics

Court roomLaw Schools: This Is The Moment—For Clinics

 

Don’t look now, current and future law students. Here comes your practical training. And it’s about time. Gone are the days of hours of copious note-taking and seemingly endless lectures. Employers want practice-ready lawyers. And law schools are increasingly figuring out ways to make their graduates as practice-ready as possible.

This week, Karen Sloan of The National Law Journal did a fantastic job of highlighting some of the more better-known and successful law school clinics. The American Bar Association now requires all graduates of accredited law schools to have at least six hours of experiential credits. Currently, six law schools require all graduates to complete at least one clinic. An additional 40 schools guarantee every student a seat in a clinic if they want it.

“Even before [the new ABA requirement], we were seeing legal education embrace the necessity for a deeper level of learning,” Janet Thompson Jackson, a clinical professor at Washburn University School of Law and co-president of the Clinical Legal Education Association, told The National Law Journal. “Some of this is generated by employers.”

When compared with other professions, the influx in clinics makes sense.

“When you think about medical school, those students are seeing patients and cutting up cadavers,” Joel Bernstein, of Brooklyn Law School, told the Journal. “They’re doing all sorts of stuff from almost the first week of the program. In our profession, until clinics started to become a big part of the educational process, people were just thrown in.”

One trend in law school clinics is specificity. One example of that is a clinic held at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. The school opened its Fashion Law Clinic in 2014, which focuses solely on (you guessed it) issues revolving around the world of fashion. Some cases have dealt with intellectual property (like conflicting names of fashion brands). In other cases, students have helped business ideas come to legal fruition.

“When creative people have an idea, they’re attached to that idea emotionally,” Ted Nguyen, a student in the clinic told the Journal. “They don’t think about the logistics or the execution.”

Some students are gaining more than just practical experience. When Eric O’Connor graduated from Loyola last year, one of the clients he worked for during the clinic hired his solo practice to continue legal guidance.

Other schools that offer small business and entrepreneurial-minded clinics include: George Washington University, the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California.

When many think about clinics, the term pro bono comes to mind. Indeed, many schools do provide pro bono clinics for clients who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford legal services. However, the University of Virginia also maintains a long-standing Supreme Court clinic.

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic places students alongside Supreme Court litigators. Stanford Law School pioneered the concept in 2004 and Virginia launched its program in 2006. Now nearly all major law schools across the country have some form of Supreme Court clinic. At best, a Supreme Court clinic provides law students with some intense and beneficial experiences. On the other hand, litigators, who have largely been in the Supreme Court game for a while, get some fresh ideas.

“Sometimes when you need people to think outside the box, the best candidates are those who haven’t been in the box very long,” Joel Johnson, who spent the past academic year in the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Virginia, told the Journal.

Other schools with long-standing and successful Supreme Court clinics are the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Texas and Yale.

Source: The National Law Journal

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