UW School of Law > Clinical Law Program > Student Information > Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Clinics

General Information

What is a Clinic? How is it different from Trial Advocacy or an Externship?

A clinic is a law school course in which students are trained by law school faculty, and then represent real clients and handle real case under faculty supervision. In Trial Advocacy the clients and cases are simulated. Many externships primarily involve research and writing; they less often involve working with real clients and cases. An externship supervisor's primary focus is necessarily case work, clinic faculty are paid to teach and work closely with students.

How will I be able to competently represent a "real" client or handle a real project?

During each clinic, students receive intensive training to prepare them to handle their cases and clients. Students are taught the law, procedure and practice skills necessary to succeed in their cases. Students practice skills in mock interviews, mediations, hearings and trials before they see their first client.

How do clients react to having law students do their legal work?

Most clients are very appreciative. Their clinic student interns may well be the only access the client has to legal representation.

Does taking a clinic satisfy my Public Service requirement?

Yes! Complete a clinic and your public service requirement has been fulfilled.

If I take a clinic does that mean I can't do an externship?

Absolutely not! Clinic credits do not count against externship credits. Students can take a clinic (or two) and still do 15 credits of externship work.

How are clinics graded?

The clinics are "graded" on a credit/no credit basis. When you are doing clinic legal work, just passing is not good enough. All students are expected to perform at a very high level. LL.M. Students in the Federal Tax Clinic receive a numerical grade.


Clinics and Academic Scheduling

Please see the How to Register and Schedule and Eligibility pages for more detailed information.

How big of a time commitment is a clinic?

Taking a clinic is a serious time commitment. Real people's lives will be at stake in the case or project you will be handling. Clinic credits are roughly based on a ratio of 3 hours per week for each credit hour. E.g., In a 4 credit clinic you would be expected to commit 12 hours of time including class time.

While in a clinic can I also work, be on law review, and/or have a life?

Some students have done all these things at once and been successful in a clinic. We don't recommend a schedule like that. Combining a clinic with one other activity, law review or a second job is clearly doable. Many students do both. Bottom line, no matter what your schedule is, clinic client work must get first priority.

May I take two clinics at once?

Generally, "no", but if openings are available you may enroll in the Street Law Clinic while taking another clinic, with the permission of the instructors.

Can I take more than one clinic while in law school?

Yes, you may take more than one clinic and try out different practice areas while in law school, if clinic openings are available. After having taken the first clinic, you will be at the bottom of the priority list during the planning packet process.

How do I deal with the fact that some required courses are only offered at times that conflict with a clinic I want?

The administration works very hard to minimize conflicts between clinic courses and required courses. To avoid conflicts most clinic classes are held in the late afternoon. If your desired clinic presents a schedule conflict, talk it over with your clinic faculty member; many times there are ways to work around a conflict.

Are any clinics offered in the summer?

No. The clinics do hire summer interns to help with the cases over the summer, however. We welcome applications. The pay is $15/hour/40 hours/week and work-study students are given preference.

If a clinic lasts for more than one quarter can I enroll for part of it? What if I'm a 3L graduating early?

Our clinic courses typically last for two or three quarters, depending on the typical pace for the work done in the clinic. General policy is that students must enroll in and complete all quarters of a clinic to receive clinic credit. 3Ls who have declared that they are graduating early are allowed to take a clinic for fewer than all quarters, but only on an overload basis with prior written permission of the clinic faculty supervisor.


CLINICS & COURSE PLANNING

What are the educational advantages of taking a clinic as a 2L or as a 3L?

Either approach has advantages.

Taking a Clinic as a 2L.

After the "all classroom" focus of the 1L year, some students find that taking a clinic as a 2L is rejuvenating. Working on real matters helps remind students why they came to law school, and helps them develop a focus for the remainder of their legal education. In addition, students who find that experiential education really suits them can use their 3L year to completed additional work for their clinic and obtain Advanced Clinic credit,  take a second clinic, or pursue an advanced externship opportunity in the clinic subject matter. On the other hand 2L's have less of a foundation of knowledge and skills to build on, and some students find that more stressful than taking a clinic as a 3L. Keep in mind that the Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic (CAYAC) and the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic are currently open only to 3L's and have pre-requisite courses.

Taking a Clinic as a 3L.

An alternative approach is to think of a clinic as a capstone opportunity that builds on a foundation of substantive knowledge and skills development. During your 2L year, take foundational courses such as professional responsibility and, for a litigation-oriented clinic, evidence. In addition, take the required and recommended courses for the clinic you are interested in. Then you'll arrive in your clinic well prepared to do work that has real consequences.

What is the effect of taking a clinic as a 2L on my eligibility for another clinic as a 3L?

3Ls who have not previously taken a clinic receive a preference for enrollment in a clinic.

If I want to take a clinic as a 3L, how should I best organize my 2L schedule?

Make sure that you:

  1. Take the prerequisites for any clinics that interest you
  2. Take Professional Responsibility (or be prepared to enroll in PR in the Clinical Context concurrently with your clinic, if it will be offered.)
  3. Take a reasonable number of foundational "bar" courses, so that you do not enter your 3rd year panicked about making room for them. (Note that some of those courses will be recommended courses for the clinic, anyway.
  4. Take one or more of our excellent array of simulation-based skills courses, such as Interviewing and Counseling, Negotiations, and Trial Advocacy.

We recommend a balanced schedule that each quarter includes one or two foundational "podium" courses, a skills course, and another course that will provide perspective on the legal system (legal theory or legal history) or that addresses a topic of particular interest to you.

How should I plan my schedule for the quarters I am enrolled in a clinic?

Clinic work requires you to interact with legal professionals – court or agency personnel, opposing counsel, volunteer supervisors, etc. You will find that easier to do if your courses are not scattered throughout the day, and you have blocks of two to four hours available for clinic work. In addition, students in several clinics must be available at specific times. For instance:

Street Law Clinic students teach classes at local public high school once a week. So they must be available for the same two hour time block sometime between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. during both winter and spring quarter.

CLINIC AVAILABILITY

How many clinic slots are available and how many students seek to enroll in a clinic during the planning packet process?

The precise number of slots available varies from year to year (clinic faculty may take sabbaticals, become associate deans, or become unavailable for other reasons). The number of J.D. clinic slots and students seeking a clinic for recent years has been:

Academic Year Projected Clinic Slots (Spring) Actual Slots (Fall & Winter) # Bidders for Clinic Slots
(Spring Lottery & Application Process)
2008-09 104 118 187
2009-10 126 149 158
2010-11 138 158 206
2011-12 128 158 158
2012-13 90-136 137 169
2013-14 127 139 195
2014-15 153 ? ?

How many students get into a clinic, even if they don’t "win the lottery" (or the application process)?

We don’t have precise numbers but the general answer is "lots". Many students who ultimately enroll in the clinics were initially waitlisted, and others were offered slots but declined.

Applying to a Clinic

Please see the How to Register and Schedule and Eligibility pages for more detailed information.

Are there pre-requisites for the clinics?

Some clinics do have pre- or co-requisites. These are shown on the Schedule. The Children and Youth Advocacy, Entrepreneurial, Federal Tax, Immigration Law, Prosecution, Technology Law and Public Policy Clinics, and Tribal Court Public Defense Clinics each have a course that is either a pre- or co-requisite. Recommended courses for each clinic are also suggested.

Will I be able to get into a clinic?

We have a large clinical law program that accommodates most student demand, especially for students who do not limit themselves to only one clinic. Students initially express their interest in a clinic by means of the lottery/application process during the spring quarter "planning packet process." Not everyone is offered a clinic slot during this process, but students naturally change their minds about which clinic they want to take, or when, as they learn more about their interests and receive other opportunities. If you really want to be in a clinic, be proactive and persistent. If you don't get into a clinic initially (or don't seek one and realize your mistake!), get on the waiting list. Check with Academic Services regularly to see where you are on the waitlist. Let the clinic faculty member know you are still very interested. And at the beginning of the term remind the faculty member of your interest. Show up for the first day of class -- at that point, faculty supervisors are permitted to take anyone in the room if there are openings. Some clinic openings are typically filled by students who did not bid for a clinic during the planning packet process.

How does the selection process work?

The selection process used by each clinic is indicated on the Schedule and Eligibility Chart. Based on the needs of the clinic, the process may be solely lottery, solely by application or a mixture of the two. Where the clinic uses an application process, the selection criteria are indicated. Don't be intimidated by clinics asking for an application. The applications are quite short and allow you to explain your background and how this particular clinic will meet your goals. When you complete the on-line Clinics Request Form, the registration screen will prompt you to fill out an application if one is required.

What do I have to do to sign up for a clinic?

Carefully read the pre-registration packet and follow the instructions. If an application is required, read the selection criteria closely and be a good advocate for yourself.

When will I know if I got in and what will the next steps be?

You will know before you register for other classes whether you got into a clinic or not. Those selected will then accept or decline the offer, and additional offers will be extended to students on the wait list. In May and early June many of the clinics will hold required meetings with selected and waitlist students to share information, answer questions and ensure that students understand how the clinic works and will honor their commitment to enroll.

Last updated 4/9/2014