The Clinical Program at American University, Washington College of Law, is a fully operational law firm within the law school. The program is divided into ten in-house clinics, in addition to an outside partnership with D.C. Law Students in Court:
Our students represent low-income and under-represented clients or groups in litigation, administrative, and transactional matters. Most of our clients are in the District of Columbia or suburban Maryland.
Unlike internships or similar programs where students assist more experienced attorneys in case related tasks, clinic student attorneys represent their clients directly. Though they receive guidance and feedback from clinical faculty, student attorneys are fully responsible for managing litigation, carrying out transactional work, and engaging in issue-based advocacy in collaboration with strategic partners.
While in Clinic, students also participate in seminars, where they learn concrete lawyering skills that they need to handle their cases and gain a better understanding of the underlying policy issues that affect their clients.Students must often struggle with ethical problems presented by their cases and confront the institutional frameworks within which their clients’ problems arise.
The clinical learning environment is intense because of significant demands on students' commitment, creativity, intelligence, reflectiveness, and time. Student attorneys often collaborate on cases and help each other with common problems that arise in their representation of clients. Within each clinic, student attorneys and faculty supervisors work together toward shared goals. Student attorneys encounter, together with their peers, the frustration, excitement, fear and courage that are all part of being a lawyer. The program provides a supportive yet challenging environment for evaluating these experiences. This combination of intense involvement and detached reflection helps student attorneys clarify their views of their emerging careers.
The goal of the Clinical Program is to help student attorneys develop the ability to learn from experience now and throughout their professional careers. By acquiring an understanding of the criteria by which a lawyering task can be judged and by learning the process of self-evaluation, student attorneys develop reflective habits that encourage continuous professional growth. The program aspires to introduce student attorneys to this process and guides them through it.