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The Lawyer-Advocate in Litigation

Founded: 1975, Penn’s first in-house clinic

Our Civil Practice Clinic is where students represent indigent clients in state and federal courts and have an opportunity to develop their litigation skills under faculty supervision.

Students enrolled in the course join our teaching law firm, the Penn Legal Assistance Office. Here, students who have completed three semesters of law school are certified by state and federal courts to represent clients with real legal matters.

Here’s a snapshot of what Civil Practice Clinic students do:

  • Interview and counsel clients.
  • Develop case strategies and theories, conduct fact investigations and manage client expectations.
  • Draft pleadings.
  • Engage in discovery and conduct depositions.
  • Negotiate with opposing parties.
  • Provide actual representation in court proceedings and administrative hearings.
  • Hone their communication, organizational and collaboration skills while working in a team with other another clinic student.

The Clinical Education

Students are assigned to individual faculty supervisors who possess substantial litigation experience, and who provide on a weekly basis one-on-one case supervision and constructive feedback regarding student progress. In this way, students develop competence in essential lawyering skills while becoming ethical, reflective practitioners.

In addition to the individual supervision, students attend a twice-weekly classroom seminar that utilizes readings, film, exercises, and videotaped simulations with real actors to explore lawyering theory that is designed to strengthen students’ overall advocacy skills. One of the weekly seminars is a case rounds discussion where in-depth issues of litigation strategy, case development and professional responsibility are explored.

Skills and insights gained in this lawyering course serve students well throughout their professional careers, whether or not they become litigators. At the same time, students perform a vital public service to the community by providing access to justice for individuals who need, but cannot afford, legal representation.

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