D.C. Law Students in Court
- Richard C. Goemann,
Adjunct Professor of Law
Executive Director, DC Law Students in Court
Landlord and Tenant, Small Claims
D.C. Law Students in Court (LSIC) students and staff make over one thousand appearances in court each year. Students represent clients in D.C. Superior Court, primarily in the Landlord and Tenant and Small Claims Branches. Other cases may be in the Civil Division and before D.C. administrative agencies. The program works to fight the consequences of poverty, to prevent homelessness and to alleviate inequalities in the justice system while teaching third-year law students to become effective advocates. In a city where safe and sanitary housing for low and moderate income people is a scarce commodity, clinic students and staff provide a voice for the disadvantaged for retained clients and the many other people they help in a more limited role each year. LSIC students’ constant presence at Landlord and Tenant court serves as a vital check on the court system, in which pro se tenants are often taken advantage of by landlords and their experienced attorneys.
As part of the clinic experience, students spend one day each week in court interviewing, counseling, and assisting potential clients in Landlord and Tenant Court. A student’s experience during his/her court day can range from arguing a motion before the court to helping a tenant through the mediation process. Once a person is accepted as a client, the student is responsible for all aspects of that person’s case. With the guidance and supervision of clinic attorneys, the student will write pleadings, investigate, prepare discovery requests, draft motions, answer discovery requests and represent his/her client at all stages of the proceedings, including mediation and a bench or jury trial.
The program offers a learning environment that focuses on case preparation, courtroom experience and one-on-one working relationships with experienced instructors. Supervision and instruction emphasize litigation strategy and the skills necessary for effective lawyering. Class work and supervision promote reflection on what a lawyer’s role should and can be. Individual and class instruction also focus on the lawyer-client relationship and client-centered representation.
LSIC started as an effort of five District law schools in 1968 to address the disparity in legal representation in two of the city’s highest volume courts. It has become one of the oldest and most highly regarded clinical programs in the city. It is one of the largest and most successful legal service providers in the District of Columbia. Students selected for the program will work alongside students selected from American, Catholic, George Washington and Howard law schools to represent indigent clients in the District of Columbia.
This program is a joint project of five Washington, D.C. law schools: American University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University and Catholic University of America. Students in LSIC are taught and supervised by supervising attorneys at our office in downtown Washington, D.C., near the courts. The clinic is open to 3Ls and runs for a full academic year (fall/spring).