Clinical and Other Experiential Learning Programs at the Law School

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13.1    Overview

In the Law School’s experiential learning programs, students earn course credit for doing actual lawyering work, either for real clients or in simulated settings. The Law School provides several types of experiential learning to students, including a variety of “live-client” clinical programs; several externship programs; and the Lawyering Skills Program.

13.2  Live-Client Clinics

The Law School’s “live-client” clinical opportunities—so called because students interview, counsel, and sometimes represent actual clients—are among the most extensive in the country. The Frank J. Remington Center houses a number of live-client clinical projects focusing on the area of criminal justice: the Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons Project (LAIP); the Oxford Federal Project; the Wisconsin Innocence Project; the Family Law Project; the Restorative Justice Project; the Federal Appeals Project; and the Criminal Appeals Project.

The Law School also provides live-client clinical opportunities in the civil arena. The Remington Center’s Economic Justice Institute (EJI) is comprised of the Consumer Law Clinic, the Family Court Clinic, the Neighborhood Law Clinic, the Mediation Clinic and the Immigrant Justice Clinic.  EJI focuses on involving students in economic justice issues through individual and class-action litigation, economic development, and community education. The Center for Patient Partnerships offers law students the opportunity to work with students from the schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Social Work in advising patients on issues involving their health care. In addition, the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic provides second and third year students the opportunity to provide legal services to nascent entrepreneurs under the supervision of qualified attorneys. Student attorneys provide legal services on a variety of issues including business formation, employment matters, intellectual property, contracts, terms and conditions and other legal issues confronting start-up businesses. Permission of the instructors is required for eligibility.

In all the live-client clinics, students’ work with clients is closely supervised by clinical faculty members. The clinical work is generally accompanied by a classroom component focusing on attorney-client relations, as well as substantive and procedural law.

13.3  Externships

In externship programs (sometimes called “internship programs”), students receive course credit for working in an off-campus legal setting, such as a judge’s office or a state agency, under the supervision of an on-site attorney. To ensure the educational value of the externship, a classroom component often  accompanies the experience.

Externships include, for example, the Judicial Internship Program, which provides students with semester-long placements in the offices of judges at all levels; the Government and Legislative Clinic; and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Clinical Externship Program, which places students in various units of the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The Remington Center also offers the Prosecution Project and the Public Defender Project.  In these projects, rising 3L students are placed for 10-week summer sessions in district attorney and public defender offices throughout Wisconsin. There are also externships in labor law, domestic violence, environmental law, disability law and health care.

In the Fall Term of 2011, a new Law Externship Clinical program began, enabling students to apply for a broader range of potential externship opportunities and, if approved by the Law School, receive appropriate academic credit for participation. The point of contact for this initiative is Externship Director Jane Heymann, Room 5103. Additional information about this program can be found at http://www.law.wisc.edu/academics/externships/index.html.

A student's eligibility to participate in any Law School internship or externship program is contingent on the student's being in good standing, both academically and with respect to disciplinary matters.  A student's placement in an internship or externship program may be denied or revoked if the Law School determines that a student's conduct or academic performance makes that placement inappropriate for any reason.

13.4  The Pro Bono Program

The Pro Bono Program provides students with opportunities to deliver law-related services to underrepresented community members.  Students are assisted and supported by Pro Bono Program staff with placements in private and nonprofit law firms, legal aid groups, in-house programs and other organizations, where their pro bono work is performed under appropriate supervision. In keeping with the law school's law-in-action tradition, students develop legal and professional skills, gain practical, hands-on experience in real work environments and explore their ethical responsibility to provide pro bono service. 

Students who graduate in 2014 or later and complete a minimum of fifty hours of pro bono services will be inducted into the Pro Bono Society and graduate with pro bono distinction.  

13.5  The Lawyering Skills Program

The Lawyering Skills Program differs from the other clinical programs at the Law School in that it employs the use of simulation exercises, many of which are taught by practicing lawyers, to provide students with the opportunity to integrate what students have learned throughout law school with the core skills needed for effective law practice. The Lawyering Skills course is open to both second-year and third-year students, and emphasizes the skills that they will need in the early years of practice.

All clinical and skills programs at the Law School are governed by Rule 3.14 of the Law School Rules.

13.6  Frequently Asked Questions

Who can enroll in clinical programs, and when?
Clinical programs are available to students in their second and third years of law school. Some programs, such as LAIP, target students who are entering the summer after their first year. Other programs, such as the Prosecution and Defender Programs, focus on third-year students. The clinics vary in their timing and duration. Some require only a one-semester commitment. Others require a fall-spring commitment or full-year commitment. Still others are available as stand-alone summer programs. Finally, clinics may require a prerequisite course (such as Evidence) before students can enroll, and most require that students take a classroom component, as well as a clinical component, during the clinical experience.

How do students enroll in clinical programs?
Most clinics are “consent of instructor” courses; that is, they do not have open enrollment, but instead require students to apply and be accepted into the clinic. The clinics provide information on how to apply at information sessions that occur on several occasions in the fall semester.  In addition, the contact persons listed on the clinic Web pages will provide information on how to apply.

Where do students work if they are enrolled in clinical programs?
That depends on the program. All of the Law School’s live-client clinics are housed in the Law School, and the students do the bulk of their work in the clinic offices. But they may travel to meet clients outside of Madison (e.g. LAIP clients are incarcerated around Wisconsin), or in Madison (e.g. the Neighborhood Law Clinic maintains offices on the south side of Madison, where students staff office hours). Students enrolled in externship programs will work in offices all around Wisconsin.

Are students enrolled in clinics able to appear in court?
Student activities in law school clinical programs are governed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Under SCR 50, students who have earned at least 45 credits can appear in court on behalf of clients, as long as they are accompanied by a supervising attorney.

How many credits do students receive for their clinical work? Is it graded?
For the clinical component of their experience, Law School Rule 3.14(5) requires a student to perform a minimum of 45 hours of work per semester per credit (assuming a 15-week semester, that comes out to a minimum of 3 hours per credit per week). Thus, the number of credits will vary, depending on how many hours of work a given clinical program requires for enrollment. The clinical work is generally graded as Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. The classroom component of the students’ experience will generally involve 1-3 credits, and can be graded on a Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory, or letter-grade, basis.

Do clinical course credits apply toward Law School graduation requirements?
Yes. All credits earned in clinics, whether for the clinical or classroom component of the students’ work, apply toward the 90 credits required for graduation. In addition, a maximum of five clinical credits may be applied toward the 60-credit diploma privilege requirement. Separate from the clinical component, the classroom component of many clinical programs may apply toward the 60-credit rule. Students should contact the instructor(s) of each clinic they are interested in, to determine the exact title of classroom courses that accompany the clinical work.

Can students create their own Clinical Program?
Clinical courses are governed by Law School Rule 3.14. Students are not free to “construct their own” clinical program or receive academic credit for any internship or externship that has not been approved by the Law School. However, students can seek to have a potential externship opportunity approved by the Law School and, if accepted, receive appropriate academic credit. If interested, contact Externship Director Jane Heymann, Room 5103.

"When liberty destroys order, the hunger for order will destroy liberty" Will Durant

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