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Stephanos Bibas explains the work of Penn Law’s Supreme Court Clinic

December 14, 2015

In this video feature, Penn Law’s Stephanos Bibas, director of the Supreme Court Clinic, talks about clinic’s work with Supreme Court cases, the skills students develop by participating in the clinic, and how the Supreme Court Clinic fits in with the Law School’s clinical programs.




I’m Stephanos Bibas; I’m a professor of law and criminology at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. I also direct the Supreme Court Clinic here.

The Penn Supreme Court Clinic is a marriage of Supreme Court experts and subject matter experts. I clerked at the Supreme Court, and I’ve argued before the Supreme Court repeatedly. So has Jim Feldman. We have five instructors who either worked in the SG’s [Solicitor General’s] office, or clerked at the Supreme Court, or both.

But at the same time, Penn Law School has world-class experts in a variety of subject matters. And we’ve partnered with the local lawyers, too, who’ve followed the cases all along and know the facts and know the record and know their client — because a team approach is better for the client to have everybody on board together.

We have 12 of the best students at an Ivy League law school. They come in, most of them are third years — a few are second years — and they spend a year in what is basically appellate litigation boot camp. They work closely alongside experienced lawyers and litigators. They draft and re-draft and research and look at every angle and strategize, taking a case from the time that we recruit it and bring it in through the time when we research and file the papers and respond to the other side’s briefs, all the way to the moot courts and to going to oral argument at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Penn has made a remarkable commitment to serving the underprivileged, and at the same time educating students through its clinical program. We have the wonderful Gittis Center for Clinical Legal Studies, in which many students get to do poverty law and landlord-tenant law, civil litigation, and entrepreneurship. But there are other students who want to help people, but not on that one-on-one, getting in to court — but more in the research and writing appellate impact litigation. And this is another way that Penn Law can support that kind of public interest work and the educational mission, and promote Penn’s profile and brand at the highest levels of the judiciary.

So we’re known and respected by the justices on the Supreme Court, and it’s a very important thing for Penn as an institution, as well as for our students and the development of the law. And it helps our student immeasurably landing top jobs, opening doors at the Department of Justice, and in teaching, and in the best law firms as well.