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, numerous externship programs, and the Lawyering Skills Course.
The Law School’s live-client clinical opportunities—where students interview, counsel, and represent actual clients—are among the most extensive in the country. The Frank J. Remington Center houses a number of live-client clinics that focus on criminal justice: the Legal Assistance to Incarcerated People 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 Economic Justice Institute (EJI) houses the Consumer Law Clinic, the Family Court Clinic, the Neighborhood Law 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 in the schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Social Work. They advise patients on issues involving their health care. In addition, the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic provides legal services to nascent entrepreneurs. Under the supervision of qualified attorneys, students provide legal services on a variety of issues including business formation, employment matters, intellectual property, contracts, and other legal issues confronting start-up businesses.
In our live-client clinics, students work with clients while 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.
In externship programs, students receive course credit for working in off-campus legal settings such as a judge’s chambers or a state agency. 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.
The Law Externship course offers students the opportunity to apply for a broad 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 Erin McBride. Additional information about this program can be found at UW Law Externships.
A student's eligibility to participate in any Law School 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 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.
The Pro Bono Program provides students with opportunities to deliver law-related services to underrepresented community members. Pro Bono Program staff assist students 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.
The Lawyering Skills Course 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 they've learned throughout law school with the core skills needed for effective law practice. The course is open to both second- 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.
Who can enroll in clinical programs, and when?
Clinical programs are available to students after their first year of law school. 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 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 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 or near the Law School, and the students do the bulk of their work in the clinic offices. Students 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).
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. If clinic students are additionally enrolled in a separate course section that is associated with a clinic, the students’ experience in such a section 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 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 Erin McBride.