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Clinical Opportunities

Happy 2009!  We here at 203 enjoyed our long winter break and now we're back reading files, admitting students, and writing blog posts.  I'm going to start the year by addressing a subject about which I receive a lot of questions when I'm out recruiting:  clinical programs.

For those of you not familiar with clinics, let me explain.  Clinics are courses in which you, as a student, have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience by working on legal casework and representing clients.  Clinics generally fall into two categories:  simulations and live-client clinics.

In a simulation you're essentially "going through the motions."  You either work on made-up cases constructed by clinical faculty or on real cases that have concluded.  You write briefs, file motions, and appear in "court" for clients who never existed or have already received assistance.  At many law schools this is the experience to which you will be limited in your first and second years.

In the other type of clinic, the live-client clinic, you're working with real clients on real, on-going legal cases.  This includes meeting with your clients, filing motions in real courts, and representing clients before actual judges and magistrates.  You are the attorney for your client.

At Yale Law School, all of our 20+ clinics are live-client.  You can start working in a clinic in the spring of your first year, an option relatively unique to YLS.  That means you can begin representing clients in court your 1L year, with lots of guidance from 2Ls, 3Ls, and the clinical faculty, of course.  YLS clinics aren't an extracurricular activity; you receive course credit for them.  While YLS does not have a clinical course requirement, over 80% of our students will take at least one clinic before graduating.

Shortly before the winter break, leaders of the various clinics held a fair in the Dining Hall to talk with students interested in finding out more information about particular clinics.  This was the first formal opportunity for 1Ls to investigate their clinic options for the coming term.

Below you will find a list of the clinical opportunities at YLS this spring.  Further information can be found by clicking on a clinic title or by visiting www.law.yale.edu/clinics.

The Sol and Lillian Goldman Family, Advocacy for Children and Youth (ACY) clinic represents children and youth in abuse, neglect, and, on occasion, termination of parental rights cases and related matters.

Our abuse and neglect cases may involve allegations of sexual, physical and/or mental abuse as well as allegations of educational, nutritional and/or emotional deprivation. While representing children in these cases, we explore our dual role, as a lawyer and guardian ad litem for the child, and the representational needs of this child in particular. In the course of our work, we have encountered issues of poverty, domestic violence, mental health, drug dependency and HIV.

Case assignments provide students with considerable interaction with clients, their families, and local service providers, opportunities to appear in the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters and in administrative meetings at the Department of Children and Families, and may provide occasions to interact with professionals from various disciplines such as psychiatry, medicine and social work. While representing clients, students will have opportunities to become familiar with the inner workings of the Department of Children and Families and potentially other social service agencies in New Haven.

The Civil Liberties and National Security Clinic, also known as the National Litigation Project, is a hybrid between clinic and seminar. We meet twice a week, once to work in small groups on a case to which we are assigned, and once as a full group to discuss broader theoretical and strategic issues arising out of those cases and the policies the government has adopted in the wake of September 11. We also try to bring in several speakers to our seminar sessions-for example, a practitioner arguing an important appellate matter and a community activist-whose work involves "war on terror" issues from a different perspective or in a different forum than the Clinic's own work. The Clinic represents parties and amici in cases at the intersection of human rights and national security.  The cases touch upon a range of issues such as prolonged arbitrary detention of citizens and non-citizens, extraordinary rendition and torture, discriminatory immigration enforcement, government secrecy, habeas corpus and fair trial rights at Guantánamo, and other international human rights matters related to national security. For instance, we have filed briefs in Rasul v. Bush, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld,Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Padilla v. Rumsfeld, Padilla v. Hanft, and Boumediene v. Bush. Not only, however, are we involved at the appellate level, but we also represent a number of Guantánamo detainees, both in habeas proceedings and before the military commissions, as well as persons formerly detained in the United States in damages actions. Depending on the case, students enrolled in the Clinic will directly participate in litigation strategy, research novel points of law and procedure, draft briefs or other court documents, handle arguments and court appearances, take discovery, and engage in numerous other forms of creative advocacy on behalf of their clients.

The Community & Economic Development / Community Development Financial Institutions Clinic (CED-CDFI), the most interdisciplinary law school clinic in the country, provides students with opportunities to get involved in community and economic development in New Haven and the surrounding region. The goal of this clinic is to address the needs of underserved communities through non-litigation, community building projects.  Through the course of the semester, students will work as legal, policy, and strategy advisors, as well as business consultants, to a host of clients.

The clinic offers students a chance to work in regulatory, transactional, business and strategic capacities, learning about the law, business, and operations of community organizations, nonprofits, banks, local government, and small businesses.   Projects may expose students to: formation and governance of for profit and not-for-profit entities  (primarily nonstock corporations and LLCs); strategic planning and decision-making, negotiating and drafting contracts; developing employment and other policies; structuring real estate transactions; assessing the financial feasibility of proposed projects; tax planning for nonprofit and for-profit entities; securing funding from federal, state, local, and private sources; resolving zoning and environmental issues; and negotiating the local politics involved in siting low-income housing and other business and nonprofit activities. Students may gain client contact, memo preparation skills, regulatory agency contact, administrative agency contact, and negotiation skills, as well as banking, finance, and business exposure.

The classroom component of the clinic focuses on issues of poverty alleviation and economic development. Attention is paid to both the particular community development needs of New Haven and to the role of community development finance in a broader context. In spring 2009, class topics will include affordable housing, history of New Haven, mortgage foreclosure crisis, banking law, financial services, social entrepreneurship, microfinance, and urban planning and redevelopment. Through class discussions, we explore larger policy questions of what is community development, what are key barriers to economic development, and the efficacy of various policy interventions in the field. Woven throughout these classes, we will examine the varied roles we play in these community and economic development processes and the ethical implications of our work. The clinic also regularly invites guest speakers, including state and federal officials, city and community leaders, policy experts, and noted academics.

This clinical offering will allow students the opportunity to participate in the defense of serious felony cases, with training and fieldwork supervision provided by clinical faculty and experienced trial attorneys from the New Haven Judicial District Public Defenders office.  Students will receive skills training which will address topics such as the right to counsel and client interviews, pretrial investigation and discovery, motions practice, crime scene and physical evidence viewing, working with forensic experts, trial/hearing preparation, jury selection, witness examination, framing a defense theory of the case, confronting the prosecution's evidence, presenting the defense's evidence, and presenting closing argument.  Cases will be selected in an attempt to provide students with a broad exposure to defense practice as well as a meaningful opportunity to participate in a litigation event.

The Domestic Violence Clinic offers students the opportunity to combine direct legal representation of survivors of domestic violence with community outreach and education.  Students provide comprehensive legal services to clients in a variety of civil matters including, but not limited to, immigration, family law, public benefits, and housing law cases.  Students conduct outreach at community-based organizations and provide trainings and know your rights presentations to community groups and agencies.  The coursework examines the legal, social, and policy issues involved in domestic violence lawyering.  The clinic focuses on serving immigrant and low-income women.   Students should expect to appear in court.

The Education Adequacy Project is devoted to representing clients who wish to improve the quality of educational opportunities being provided to children in Connecticut. Currently, the bulk of the project's work stems from a class action lawsuit that was filed against the State of Connecticut in November of 2005. In the lawsuit, parents and children allege that the State is failing to fulfill its state constitutional duty to provide "suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities." As the plaintiffs' primary lawyers, students in the Project are involved in all aspects of the ongoing litigation. As such, the Project provides students with an opportunity to take part in major class action litigation that will shape the future of perhaps the most important domestic human rights issue of our time: the right of a child to receive a suitable educational opportunity regardless of the child's wealth or place of birth. The clinic has arguments in front of the Connecticut Supreme Court on this question in March, 2008.

Students in the Project spend the majority of their time working on the litigation, developing or preparing case strategies, briefs, memos, motions, and evidence. Students also work on advancing and defending the vision outside the courts, through work with state politicians and community leaders. The Education Adequacy Project meets on a weekly basis, reviewing the progress of the litigation and discussing the substantive, strategic, and theoretical issues involved. Students participate in smaller group work sessions and in meetings with both individual and corporate clients. Students spend the bulk of their time on briefs, memos, and other litigation preparation.

The Yale Environmental Protection Clinic is designed to introduce students to the fields of environmental advocacy and policy-making by exploring a variety of environmental law and policy questions and the tools environmental professionals use to address them. While the Clinic supplements students' hands-on experience with seminars on environmental law and policy, the core of the program is the work students do for their clients: teams of three to four students work with client organizations on "real-world" projects, with the goal of producing a major work product for the client by the end of the semester.

The Immigration Legal Services Clinic primarily represents clients seeking asylum and withholding of removal in the United States. Our clients come from more than twenty different countries in all regions of the world-including, but not limited to Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Most of our clients are refugees, who fear that they will be persecuted on the basis of their race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group if they return to their countries of nationality. We assist our clients with the preparation of their applications for asylum, prepare clients for interviews with asylum officers, and present client cases in an administrative Immigration Court. We also represent clients who are appealing orders for removal and denials of asylum before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and we currently have cases pending in the Second Circuit. Additionally, we assist our clients in dealing with other immigration or legal matters that can arise in conjunction with their immigration proceedings or after a grant of political asylum-for example, helping clients obtain visas to allow their family members to join them in this country.

Students have close contact with their assigned clients. This clinic involves a great deal of client-interaction, sometimes through translators. Students in the Immigration Legal Services Clinic prepare client and witness affidavits to tell their clients' stories, as well as briefs and extensive exhibits containing legal arguments and detailing the political, economic, and social conditions in the countries our clients have fled.  In addition, some students have the opportunity to conduct oral examination and present oral argument before judges in administrative trial proceedings. Students whose cases include appellate work may also have the chance to present oral arguments before the Second Circuit.

Students in the Landlord/Tenant Clinic ("LLT") provide legal assistance and representation to indigent tenants facing eviction.  Their work is based primarily on the Connecticut Summary Process Statute (Conn. Gen. Stat.§ 47a-23 et seq.), which governs eviction actions in the state.

The LLT clinic provides an excellent opportunity to manage litigation and develop lawyering, mediation, and negotiating skills. Participating students investigate their own cases and also write all briefs, memoranda, and correspondence relating to their cases. They will also argue motions, handle mediation sessions, and negotiate settlements directly with opposing counsel. They may also conduct trials for their clients in Connecticut state court or engage in limited legislative advocacy, defending tenants' rights in the Connecticut legislative process.

Legal Assistance is a clinical seminar that uses the classroom, direct client counseling and representation, and simulation experiences to provide students a glimpse into the daily workings of a legal aid practice and to provide them with invaluable practical legal skills. Students will work directly with attorneys at New Haven Legal Assistance in the areas of Family Law, Criminal Defense, Benefits, Housing, and Immigration. New Haven Legal Assistance is one of the few legal aid programs in the country which provides criminal defense representation, and a very limited number of students may have the opportunity to do criminal defense work in state court, depending upon the resources available in the criminal unit. The clinic provides substantial opportunities to interact with individual clients.

Legal Services for Immigrant Communities fuses traditional civil legal services representation with collaborative, community-based strategies for solving community problems and empowering clients.  Our clinic provides a broad range of legal services to one of the largest immigrant communities in New Haven: the Spanish-speaking Latin American and Caribbean community.  We conduct outreach through Junta for Progressive Action, a nonprofit community organization in Fair Haven.  We offer students the opportunity to represent immigrant clients in a wide range of cases, including (but not limited to) immigration law, employment law, benefits, family law, mortgage foreclosures, landlord-tenant law, and consumer fraud.

The Legislative Advocacy is designed to give students an opportunity to participate in the state legislative process by advancing - and defending - the policy initiatives of a Connecticut public interest organization that works on behalf of children and, where possible, other LSO clinics.  In the future, the clinic may work on behalf of additional public interest organizations. 

Although the particular policy issues we tackle change from year to year, issues covered in recent years have included public education (particularly No Child Left Behind); criminal & juvenile justice reform; Medicaid and indigent health care issues (including universal healthcare, prenatal care, ERISA & health insurance pooling); legal representation of foster children; and tax reform. The Legislative Advocacy clinic's work includes both affirmative legislative initiatives and defensive efforts to respond to proposed legislation deemed inimical to the interests of its clients. The clinic also serves as a legislative liaison for other LSO clinics, keeping them informed of legislative developments affecting their clients' interests. Issues of ethics and professional responsibility for lawyers working in the legislative arena will be an important focus.

LGBT Rights are at the cutting edge of civil rights work today. The LGBT Litigation Project has done important work for organizations like the ACLU, Lambda Legal, Amnesty International, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Our research has involved Proposition 8, LGBT youth in school, the rights of transgender prisoners, employment discrimination, and family rights.

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic has three main goals: to provide students with the opportunity to gain practical experience that reflects the range of activities in which lawyers engage to promote respect for human rights; to help students build the basic knowledge and skills necessary to be effective human rights lawyers and advocates; and to contribute to current efforts to protect human rights through valuable, high-quality assistance to appropriate organizations and individual clients. Through work on projects and classroom discussion, the Clinic encourages students to examine and develop sensitivity to critical issues affecting the promotion of human rights and to integrate the theory and practice of human rights law. Recent work has included human rights litigation in U.S. courts; preparing amicus briefs on international and comparative law for domestic, regional and international tribunals and adjudicative bodies; providing nongovernmental organizations with legal and factual research and strategic advice; and investigating and drafting reports on human rights violations.

This clinical workshop will serve the needs of nonprofit organizations that cannot afford to retain private counsel, nascent and established, that require help in the process of organization and incorporation, in obtaining tax exemption, and solving ongoing legal problems. The class will meet as a group five or six times during the term.  Professional responsibility/legal ethics credit is available to students attending two two-hour Clinic ethics sessions and enrolled in the Clinic for two (or more) units of credit.

For more than three decades, students in Prison Legal Services have provided legal assistance to inmates in state and federal prisons in Connecticut. During the spring term, the clinic will focus primarily on state cases challenging the conditions of confinement.

 Weekly class sessions will focus on the procedural and substantive law issues that occur generally in conditions cases, as well as issues specific to our clients' cases.

Participants in Prison Legal Services develop their analytical, research and writing abilities (as well as professional responsibility) through their client work, which includes interviewing, counseling and drafting of pleadings. Client interviewing provides an opportunity for students to develop an understanding of the breadth and variety of the Connecticut prison system, as well as the opportunity to gain perspective on inmates' daily realities. This clinic will benefit from collaboration with forensics fellows from the Law and Psychiatry program.

The Prosecution Externship places students in part-time, school-year internships with local prosecutors' offices - the United States Attorney's Offices in New Haven and Bridgeport, and the New Haven State's Attorney's Office.  There is also a seminar component to the externship; students meet with a federal prosecutor one evening per week, meet with the professionals with whom prosecutors work (FBI agents, judges, parole officers, etc.) and visit local law enforcement facilities.  Through the externship, students play an integral role in the prosecution of criminal cases, and are frequently given the opportunity to appear in court.  

The San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project pairs YLS students with the attorneys of the Affirmative Litigation Task Force at the San Francisco City Attorney's Office.  Students break into small groups to work on all stages of an affirmative lawsuit: brainstorming ways to use litigation to improve the lives of California residents, building and researching a case, and the litigation itself. Topics have included litigation against unfair terms in arbitration, payday lenders that offered installment loans with astronomical interest rates, and the state of California for denying Medi-Cal coverage to incarcerated youths in the custody of public institutions and post-release.  Other groups work on such varied issues as pharmaceutical ethics, reproductive rights, human trafficking, predatory lending and credit practices, and the environment.

Now in its third year, the Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic has brought half a dozen merits cases before the Court covering constitutional, criminal, administrative, immigration, and civil rights law and has participated in a number of cases as amici curiae. The clinic combines hands-on clinical work with seminar discussion of Supreme Court decision making and advocacy. It begins with several sessions analyzing the Court as an institution, focusing on the practicalities of how the Court makes its decisions and how lawyers present their cases. Thereafter students work on a variety of actual cases before the Court, preparing petitions for certiorari, merits briefs, and amicus briefs. Students work with Yale faculty and some of the country's most experienced Supreme Court practitioners. Students have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to watch the clinic's supervising attorneys present oral argument to the Court. 

Students in the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) represent immigrants, low-wage workers, and their organizations in labor, immigration, criminal justice, civil rights, and other matters.  The clinic docket includes cases at all stages of legal proceedings in Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. District Court, the Second Circuit, and before Connecticut state agencies and courts.  Its non-litigation work includes the representation of grassroots organizations, labor unions, and other groups in regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, strategic planning, and other matters.

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