Enrolling in LAIP
Students are accepted into LAIP through a application process that occurs during the fall semester of their first year (second year students are also welcome to apply). Students must have successfully completed their first year of law school prior to enrollment. No specific courses are required as prerequisites for LAIP, although Introduction to Criminal Procedure is recommended. Because these programs require students to visit prisons, student who are on probation/parole, or who have pending criminal cases against them, cannot be admitted into the program.
Students begin their work with LAIP at the end of May and work full-time (forty hours/week) for twelve weeks. During this summer session, students receive seven Law School credits, a stipend of approximately $2,500, and summer tuition remission. They then continue for a minimum of three credits during the following fall and spring semesters. Four hours of clinical work per week is required for each credit earned.
The Work of LAIP
In the Frank J. Remington Center's Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons Project (LAIP), students work under the supervision of clinical faculty to provide legal assistance to prison inmates throughout Wisconsin. Each student is assigned a number of cases; they visit the prisons where their clients are incarcerated; and interview the clients about their concerns. These concerns may include a variety of issues such as postconviction criminal law, sentence credit questions, and resolution of pending fines or charges. Students then research the facts and the law; talk to parties, prior attorneys, or opposing counsel; draft legal correspondence and pleadings; and may even appear in court on behalf of clients.
People in prison are affected, perhaps more than any other group in society, by the legal system. They frequently need legal services concerning their convictions, their sentences, or release issues. In addition, prisons are better able to fulfill their missions if they have offenders who ought to be there, and who believe they have been treated fairly. An offender who leaves the institution at peace with the legal system will be more likely to adjust to life in society and avoid future crimes. For these reasons, we view the work of LAIP clinical faculty and students as a service not only to the individual clients, but also to the correctional system and society.
Educational Benefits For LAIP Students
LAIP provides an excellent "hands on" education which benefits law students regardless of whether they end up practicing criminal law. At LAIP, we do not define clinical education as "skills acquisition." Rather, the program's primary goal is to allow law students to experience and practice the highest degree of ethical, competent professionalism. Nevertheless, LAIP students do receive a variety of educational experiences, as our former students can attest.
Working with Clients
Each LAIP student meets and works with persons serving time in state prisons. As a result, each student personally observes and experiences the profound human consequences of an individual's involvement in the criminal justice system. The student is able to observe, from the offender's point of view, how incarceration affects the offender's ties with his or her family and community, as well as his or her opportunity for change and growth within the correctional system. This first-hand experience with a subculture that is most often forgotten or ignored in mainstream society is a powerful and memorable experience for many students who participate in LAIP.
Lawyering Skills and Values
LAIP allows students to develop lawyering skills which are not taught in traditional law school classes, or gained by working as a law clerk in a private law firm. Each LAIP student handles cases for a variety of inmates; the student's experience may involve interviewing, legal research and writing, negotiating, legal counseling, and oral advocacy.
Developing a Sense of Professionalism
Finally, and most importantly, LAIP instills a sense of professionalism in students. Because LAIP students are given primary control over management of their cases, they learn how to handle work for real clients with professionalism, diligence, and thoroughness. The students carry this professionalism into practice, regardless of their field of law.
All of these educational benefits are enhanced for students by the opportunity to work closely and collaboratively with skilled, experienced clinical faculty. Students receive ongoing, individualized feedback on their written work and oral presentations from their clinical supervisors. Students also meet with their clinical supervisors for a final evaluation conference, which may include a detailed written evaluation of their overall performance. Grading in LAIP is pass-fail.