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3L: Clinics

Overview: Advanced and Integrated Skill Development

Penn Law’s clinical programs offer students a distinctive opportunity to practice law in a structured and supportive educational environment. Clinics challenge students to integrate, apply and practice the analytical skills and legal knowledge cultivated throughout the curriculum, as well as the research, writing, communications, professional and executive skills introduced in Legal Practice Skills, Center of Professionalism programming, and simulation courses, in dynamic real-life contexts.

The Teaching Law Firm

The Gittis Center, housed on the ground floor of Silverman Hall, is a “teaching law firm” devoted to nurturing reflective, responsible, ethical lawyers by vesting students with primary responsibility for resolving clients’ real-life problems in a supportive learning environment. Clinical offerings span a wide-range of substantive practice areas including civil and criminal litigation, intellectual property, child advocacy, business advising and transactions, legislation, human rights and mediation. Clinics require students to interview and counsel clients, develop case theories, strategies and tactics, frame legal issues succinctly, perform pointed and timely legal research, present findings to clients and supervisors, draft contracts, briefs and pleadings, plan and execute diligence and discovery, negotiate with opposing counsel, and engage in oral advocacy, client counseling, project management, professional collaborations, and more. These skills are critical for all attorneys, whether practicing as an associate in a law firm, a staff attorney in a legal services organization, an in-house attorney or an agency attorney in the federal government.

Civil Practice Clinic

Students litigate a diverse docket of civil matters in state and federal courts and administrative agencies on behalf of indigent clients, including civil rights, employment, housing, consumer, and family law cases.

Criminal Defense Clinic

Students defend indigent clients in misdemeanor and felony cases in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic

Students counsel scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and entities both large and small to secure, protect and leverage intellectual property assets.

Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic

Students advise for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurs on a wide range of issues that arise out of starting, operating and growing their businesses.

Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic

Students represent adolescents and youth on a variety of civil matters including child welfare, immigration, mental health and education cases through a unique collaboration with social work, medical and mental health providers.

Legislative Clinic

Students advise and advocate for legislative solutions to public policy challenges in national legislative offices in Washington, D.C.

Mediation Clinic

Students mediate disputes arising from civil, criminal, international, appellate, family, employment and administrative proceedings. 

Supreme Court Clinic

Students collaborate with leading appellate advocates to develop arguments that will be adjudged by the nation’s highest court.

Transnational Legal Clinic

Students engage in direct representation of individual and organizational clients in immigration cases, as well is in human rights cases and broader advocacy initiatives before international and domestic venues.

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Critical Reflection

Uniformly, Penn Law’s clinics challenge students to confront problems with dynamic legal, practical, ethical and personal dimensions and to forge solutions in real time. Ultimately, clinics provide students with an entirely unique vantage point from which to consider the challenges, rewards, power and responsibility attendant to their chosen profession, encourage students to reflect critically on their experiences inhabiting the role of lawyer, and assist students in cultivating lasting strategies for professional development and personal satisfaction.

3L Considerations

Eligibility and Preference

3Ls are eligible to enroll in all clinics and are awarded preference over 2Ls in clinic enrollment.

Complementary Study

Effective clinic students 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. Recognizing that students are preparing to become lawyers, clinics assess and reward professional growth and critical reflection as well as technical competence. While it can be helpful for students to have exposure to certain substantive and practical topics before enrolling in a clinic, there are almost no prerequisites for clinic enrollment. Nevertheless, all students should consult relevant Areas of Focus throughout this Guide, as well as individual clinic websites and course descriptions, to develop ideas about courses that complement each clinical offering.

Commitment

Each clinical course requires that you commit a substantial amount of your time and energy.  Clinics award more credits and are more time-intensive than classroom courses. For every credit awarded by a clinic, you should expect to devote 3 hours each week to classroom and client work (e.g. in a 7 credit clinic, expect to spend over 20 hours per week).  Moreover, the demands of clients and cases can be considerable, unpredictable and uneven. It is also notable that students’ obligations to clinical courses extend through the final day of the exam period. 

Timing

The “best” time to enroll in a clinic will be different for every student.   All students are encouraged to enroll in a clinic when they feel they will derive the greatest educational benefit, and will be most able to balance the demands of a clinic with other commitments.

An earlier clinical experience enables students to assume the role of lawyer as early as possible and to learn a great deal about their own strengths and weaknesses as a lawyer and about which aspects of legal practice are most appealing, challenging, satisfying or frustrating. This knowledge prepares students to make the most out of summer work opportunities, to make informed and reasoned choices about their career aspirations, and to chart a valuable course of upper-level study by seeking out other clinics, externships, specific skill development offerings, practice competitions and leadership roles in pro bono projects and student organizations that best showcase their lawyering strengths and challenge them to improve in areas of weakness.

A later clinical experience can provide students with a springboard into their professional career. Taking a clinic later in law school allows you to benefit from having taken additional substantive, practical and professional courses that can be applied to work in the clinic in an integrated way. Clinics also provide a space for students who may be on the brink of graduation to identify and develop confidence in the unique personal character, lawyering style and values that each student will bring to the profession when they enter the bar.

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Registration FAQ’s

Please note that the information below applies to all clinical course offerings except the Supreme Court Clinic. Please consult the SCC student application for that clinic’s application materials.

In which clinical courses can 3Ls enroll?

ALL OF THEM

How do students enroll in a clinical course offering? Is there an application?

Students enroll in clinical course offerings through the regular enrollment lottery during Advance Registration. It is recommended that 3L students preference the clinical courses high during Advance Registration. However, 3L students are given enrollment priority in clinical courses. Only the Supreme Court Clinic and the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic require an application (go here for the Detkin application, or here for the Supreme Court clinic application). 

Are there any course pre-requisites or co-requisites students should be aware of when enrolling in a clinic course?

There are no pre-requisites required to enroll in most of the clinical course offerings. However, the Criminal Defense Clinic requires that students have completed, or be currently enrolled in Evidence (co-requisite).

Can students enroll in more than one clinic during a semester?

No. In addition, students are not permitted to enroll in an externship and a clinic during the same semester.

Is a student’s chance of enrolling in another clinic, or in an externship adversely impacted by having enrolled in a clinic or externship during a prior semester?

No. In fact, many students enroll in several clinics and externships before they graduate.

If at first you don’t succeed…What happens if students don’t get into a clinic?  How do students remain on the waitlist?

Each clinic generates a waitlist of students who attempted but failed to secure a clinic seat during Advance Registration. Students who wish to remain on the waitlist must confirm their place on the list in a book maintained in the Registrar’s Office before the end of the second day of classes. Confirmed waitlist students may receive an e-mail from the Registrar’s office inviting them to enroll in a clinic during the first week of Add/Drop period. Students who fail to secure a clinic seat can bid again during Advance Registration for the next semester.

Are clinics offered every semester, and how long are they?

Yes, most clinics are offered during both the Fall and Spring semesters. However, the Legislative Clinic is offered only in the Spring semester. All clinics are one semester long, except for the year-long Supreme Court Clinic.

Can enrollment in a clinic be used to satisfy the Law School’s Pro Bono Requirement?

Yes. Students may elect to receive one less credit for a clinic in exchange for 35 hours of pro bono credit. Students should visit the Toll Public Interest Center Office for more details and to complete the necessary paperwork.

Please consult enrollment procedures for clinical-courses for more instructions on registering for clinics during Advance Registration.

Any Questions?

Students who have questions about any of the Law School’s Clinical Programs are encouraged to attend a Clinic Open House (offered each semester before Advance Registration begins) and to contact Rachel Mayover (rmayover@law.upenn.edu), Gittis Center Administrative Director, who will assist in answering your questions or connecting you to Clinic faculty or upper-level students who can provide further information or guidance.

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