PLANNING FOR A CLINIC

There are many considerations when registering for a clinic including:

  • What your interests are
  • Whether you would rather take a clinic in your second or third year
  • Your semester course load
  • Prerequisites

Note: You cannot enroll in an externship and a clinic during the same semester.

If you are enrolled in a clinic and your case carries over to the next semester, and you wish to continue work on your case, you will not be able to remain working with your case as an Advanced Advocacy Clinic student if you are also enrolled in an Externship for that semester.

You should also review our policy on Conflicts of Interest before enrolling in a Clinic. 

Selecting a Clinic

No matter which Clinic you take, you will be directly responsible for clients and you will learn how to be an ethical, zealous advocate. As you are making your selection, you may want to consider some of the casework and credit differences between the clinics. Following are 2 charts that show some of the similarities and differences in the work you will do for each of the clinical courses.

Please note that each student’s experience is different, and we cannot guarantee that your experience will conform to the following checklist.  We have prepared te below composite overviews to help you clarify your priorities.

  CARES Civil Justice FLAC Federal Tax Health Law Law &
Entrepreneurship
Emphasis on Courtroom Litigation X X X   X  
Emphasis on Negotiation   X X X   X
Emphasis on Business Advising           X
Community Education     X X   X
All Immigrant Clientele X   X      
Some Clients in Detention X   X      
Travel to Clients & Hearings X
(Possible travel outside Phila. Metro Area) 
X X
(Possible travel outside Phila. Metro Area. Fall outreach includes farm-based session.)
X
(Students are required to attend at least 1 Tax Court Calendar Call in Phila.)
X X
Always Work in Teams X May work in teams X X May work in teams May work in teams
Caseload per Student Team 1-2 2-4 1-3 8-10 2-4 2-3 
(Often advise on multiple issues/matters each for their 2-3 clients)
Practice in State Court   X X   X  
Practice before Administrative Agency X X X X    
Prerequisites 0 3 semesters & Evidence 3 semesters 0 3 semesters & Evidence 0
Credits 8 6 6 6 6 6
Satisfies Practical Writing Req. X X X X X X
  CARES Civil Justice FLAC Federal Tax Health Law Law &
Entrepreneurship
Administrative Law X X X X X  
Business Organizations           X
Business Planning           X
Child Abuse Expungement   X        
Civil Forfeiture   X        
Consumer Law   X        
Contracts           X
Disability Rights         X  
Elder Law         X  
Employment Law   X       X
Family Law   X X      
Federal Income Tax       X    
Federal Tax Collection       X    
Federal Taxation of Business Entities       X   X
Guardianship         X  
Health Law         X  
Immigration X   X      
Intellectual Property           X    
International Human Rights X   X      
Landlord Tenant   X        
Legal Profession X X X X X X
Public Benefits   X     X  
Social Security Disability   X     X  
Wage & Hour Claims   X X      
Workers' Compensation     X      

    

When to Take a Clinic

As with all of your registration decisions, you should enroll in a clinic when you feel that you will derive the greatest educational benefit. There is no single best time within your law school career to schedule your clinical experiences. As clinical courses require a significant time commitment and award a substantial number of academic credits, you must plan how you will fit them into your time in law school.

Clinics help students integrate legal theory and the actual practice of the profession. A clinical course will give you a new perspective on how the law functions in society and how lawyers behave. This additional perspective will enrich your learning in your substantive law courses. 

Taking a clinical course will also help you to learn about yourself and see what aspects of legal practice you enjoy and in which you can be successful. You can then use this knowledge to make better choices about job opportunities or other courses.  Students often report that their clinic course experiences are an asset in applying for jobs.

Some students choose to take a clinical course in the second year of law school, enabling them to assume the role of lawyer as early as possible, applying their classroom learning to real cases and providing valuable services to clients in disadvantaged populations. 

Many students prefer to wait until their third year of law school, seeing the clinic as a transition between law school and their professional career. Taking a clinic later in law school allows you to benefit from having taken additional substantive and/or procedural courses that you can then apply to your work in the clinic. In addition, some clinics have prerequisites which preclude students from enrolling earlier. Lastly, third-year law students have priority for a majority of the clinic spaces.  Please consult the clinic descriptions for further clarification.

   

Fitting a Clinic into Your Schedule

Each clinical course requires that you commit a substantial amount of your time and energy. They all provide exposure to real practice, give you direct responsibility for clients’ cases and include close faculty supervision. As a result, they often award more credits and are always more time-intensive than classroom courses. You will not be able to control when your cases and clients will need your attention. Flexibility in your schedule is vital.

Students have found that it is best to:

  • take a clinical course in a semester in which you have a lighter course load and a relatively low number of credits.
  • In particular, it is best to limit the number of other courses you are taking in the same semester as a clinic to no more than three.  Of course, this will vary with the number of credits awarded by the particular clinic you take. 
  • You should think carefully before combining a clinic with any outside employment.

In addition to specific course prerequisites , some other classroom courses are particularly relevant to the work you will do in a clinical course. 

  • While not a prerequisite for most clinics, it is strongly recommended that you take Evidence either prior to or concurrently with your enrollment in any clinic that engages in litigation and dispute resolution on behalf of its clients. Note: Evidence is a pre-requisite for the Civil Justice Clinic and the Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic.
  • Legal Profession is required for graduation.  Issues of professional responsibility arise in all clinics.  You may choose to take this course either before, after, or concurrently with any clinical course.
  • Trial Practice teaches courtroom skills which are helpful in every clinic that engages in litigation and dispute resolution on behalf of its clients. You may choose to take Trial Practice before, after, or concurrently with your clinic course.
  • Civil Pre-Trial Practice develops practical and analytical skills in the pretrial stages of civil litigation. You may find it helpful to take Civil Pre-Trial Practice either prior to or concurrently with the Civil Justice Clinic or the Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic.
  • Business and Transactional Practice courses may assist in advancing the substantive and practical knowledge that students will use to represent clients in the Clinic for Law and Entrepreneurship (CLE). You may find it helpful to take courses such as Business Organizations, Taxation of Business Entities, Intellectual Property, Business Planning, Drafting Business Transactions or In-House Counsel, prior to or concurrently with the CLE, keeping in mind that effective CLE counselors are characterized by their openness to learning, and high levels of commitment and intellectual engagement, rather than any particular subject matter expertise or practical background.
  • Administrative Practice facilitates an understanding of the regulatory process. As regulations govern much of the health care field, you may choose to take Administrative Practice either before, during or after the Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic.
  • Various other substantive and procedural courses may be helpful to particular clinics.  To see a list of the substantive areas of law practice for each clinic, please consult the above dropdown.
  • Note: All clinics (except Advanced Advocacy) satisfy the Practical Writing requirement for graduation. 

All of the clinics cover the topics of Interviewing and Counseling extensively.  Students find that there is significant overlap and repetition between this course and any clinic. 

You may wish to consult the Director of the Clinic in which you are interested as to the benefits of taking particular courses and determining the best timing.  In addition, you may wish to contact students who have taken particular clinical courses to obtain information about their experiences, both in terms of the time commitment and the benefits they received.

   

Conflicts of Interest

When you work in the Clinical Program, the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct will apply to you. Even before you enter the Clinical Program, you must think about the rules regarding conflicts of interest. You must avoid any conflicts between clients of the Clinical Program and any clients that you may represent in any externship, paid job, volunteer work or internship.

The conflict rules regulate lawyers when they have confidential information about a client. Broadly, the rule prohibits lawyers and law firms from representing two clients whose interests may be in conflict. Because of the nature of our work, the Clinical Program is considered one law firm. Therefore, we have to make sure that all students in all of the clinics do not create conflicts for any clinic client. To be fully informed, you may want to look at the rules yourself.

    See e.g.,:

  •     Rule 1.7 (Conflicts of Interest: Current Clients);
  •     Rule 1.8 (Conflicts of Interest: Current Clients: Special Rules);
  •     Rule 1.9 (Duties to Former Clients);
  •     Rule 1.10 (Imputation of Conflicts of Interest: General Rule); and
  •     Rule 1.11 (Special Conflict of Interest for Former and Current Government Officers and Employees).

In order to ensure that you and the other members of the Clinical Program are abiding by our ethical obligations under the Rules, we need to obtain complete information about your work outside the Clinical Program. For these purposes, work is defined broadly and would include all externships, internships, paid and volunteer jobs in legal or government capacities with all former, current and future employers (during your term in the clinic).

When you register for a clinic with the Clinical Program, you will be required to provide complete information about all former, current, and future employers. In order to ensure that you do not violate your obligations under the Rules, you have a continuing duty to keep this information current throughout your work in the clinic and to inform the Clinical Program if your employment changes. You should also check with your employer to ensure that the employer does not perceive your work with the Clinical Program as presenting a conflict with your work with the employer.

    The time when this could become most complicated is when you work, or volunteer, in two law offices at the same time. This situation would arise if you are working in a legal capacity during the same semester you are in a clinic. In the event that a conflict arises between the Clinical Program a concurrent employer, you will NOT be able to drop the clinic course. So, please resolve all potential issues involving conflicts before registering for the Clinical Program.

    Given the scope of work we do in the Clinical Program, potential conflicts of interest are most likely to arise with the following government offices:

  •     Internal Revenue Service
  •     Department of Homeland Security
  •     Department of Justice, Immigration Courts
  •     District Attorneys Offices

This is not intended to be exhaustive. Your duty to notify us of employment extends to all employers, whether on this list or not.

If you work or plan to work (in any capacity) with any of these organizations while enrolled in the Clinical Program, the Rules may prohibit your concurrent involvement in the Clinical Program, so please bring this to our attention immediately. Also, note that you are prohibited from enrolling in both a clinic and an externship during the same semester.