What To Know About Supreme Court Clinics

If you want to get real law experience while still in law school, you may want to consider a Supreme Court Clinic.

Jake Holland, a reporter for Bloomberg Law, recently spoke to experts about why Supreme Court clinics offer valuable experience for law students.

“These clinics, which have since cropped up at top law schools across the country, provide quality representation to groups who can least afford it and act as a pipeline to elite appellate work, including at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Holland writes.

HOW THEY WORK

A number of law schools offer these types of clinics to give law students experience in working with the Supreme Court.

At Stanford Law’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, students focus on a wide range of legal issues.

“In just the past few years, the clinic has represented criminal defendants challenging their convictions or sentences; civil plaintiffs pressing claims of employment discrimination, consumer protection, wage and hour violations, and—last but not least—marriage equality,” according to Stanford Law.

According to Holland, students in these clinics have the opportunity to work on cases and arguments from cert petitions to merit briefs.

“Though the size of clinics vary, most have between six and 12 students,” Holland writes. “Some run on yearlong schedules, others on semester-long ones. Harvard Law School’s clinic is in January term, which typically runs for three or three-and-a-half weeks.”

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

On top of gaining experience in how the Supreme Court works, law students in these clinics can also develop a number of important skills.

“Students say they’ve become writers, and that they now understand how to edit their work and other people’s work,” Pamela Karlan, who helped found Stanford’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, tells Bloomberg Law. “The collegial nature of the clinic teaches them how to work as part of a team, which is something law school doesn’t always spend a lot of time on.”

With the experience and skills, law students have a better opportunity at appellate jobs post-grad.

For instance, law students with clinical experience tend to have a better chance of getting their foot in the door at big firms, according to Paul Hughes, an instructor at Yale Law’s clinic.

“If you decide that you want to work in their firm, you start with a relationship already formed. It can make for better experiences as a junior lawyer at a large firm.”

For what it’s worth, law students also report that clinical experience offers a different way of learning the law.

“It’s one thing to study constitutional law and the Supreme Court in the abstract in a classroom, and it’s another to then actually be working on actual Supreme Court briefs and cases,” Scott Keller, a Texas alum and chair of the Supreme Court and constitutional law practice at Baker Botts, tells Bloomberg Law. “It was really the capstone experience of my legal education.”

Sources: Bloomberg Law, Stanford Law