What experiential learning opportunities are available at WCL?

Experiential learning opportunities provide hands-on practical experience to students in a variety of formats. Some opportunities are non-curricular and available to students in their first year (e.g. the Pro Bono Honors Pledge Program, Genocide Teaching Project and Action for Human Rights Experiential Learning Projects). Other opportunities carry academic credits and are available to students during their second and third years.

Finding out about Experiential Programs: Opportunities Day

Each January, the Office of Student Affairs hosts Opportunities Day to introduce first-year students to the range of programs, courses, publications and other opportunities available to them throughout the remainder of their law school tenure. Faculty and administrators are on hand to meet with students and answer questions regarding the various offerings. A brief description of some of these opportunities is listed below:

  • Clinical Program: Washington College of Law's clinical program is ranked second in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The clinical program gives second and third year student attorneys the opportunity to represent real clients with real legal problems, to handle litigation from beginning to end, to carry out transactional work for client groups, to take full responsibility for clients' cases, and to learn lawyering skills at both a practical and theoretical level. Each clinic has a seminar that meets once or twice a week to discuss both the theoretical and practical aspects of advocacy and most use simulated exercises as the main teaching technique. Students can choose among the following ten clinics:
    • Civil Practice Clinic
    • Community and Economic Development Law Clinic
    • Criminal Justice Clinic
    • D.C. Law Students in Court
    • Disability Rights Law Clinic
    • Domestic Violence Clinic
    • Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic
    • Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic
    • International Human Rights Law Clinic
    • Women & the Law Clinic

    You can learn more about WCL's clinical program by going to http://www.wcl.american.edu/clinical/.

  • Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project: This project, founded in 1999 with the enthusiastic support of Mrs. Cissy Marshall and the late Mrs. Mary Brennan, was designed to mobilize talented second- and third-year law students to teach courses on constitutional law and juvenile justice in public high schools in the District of Columbia and Maryland. The Marshall-Brennan Fellows have the chance to make a profound difference in the lives of their students. In addition to teaching, the Fellows take a year-long Advanced Constitutional Law seminar led by the program coordinators, Maryam Ahranjani and Stephen Wermiel. The Fellows learn classroom management techniques, pedagogical methods and master the "We the Students" and "Youth Justice" curricula. Learn more at http://www.wcl.american.edu/marshallbrennan/.

  • Supervised Externship Program: This program enables students to explore various career options and other facets of becoming a lawyer, providing direction and insight for their postgraduate legal careers. The fieldwork experience is enhanced by the close supervision they receive from our faculty members by enrolling in one of a wide variety of externship seminars. Students in the Externship Program must commit to working between 140 to 280 hours over the course of the semester. This legal work must be unpaid to receive academic credit. Externship students are free to choose their own fieldwork placement within any:
    • federal, state or local government agency,
    • federal, state, or administrative court/tribunal
    • not-for-profit organization, or,
    • law firm, only if they are assigned exclusively to pro bono projects

    For more information, please visit http://www.wcl.american.edu/externship/.

  • UN CAT Project: WCL's United Nations Committee against Torture (or UN CAT) Project is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for selected upper-level students to strengthen and deepen their knowledge of international human rights law while experiencing firsthand the UN CAT in Geneva, Switzerland. Each fall, approximately six WCL students assist WCL Dean and UN CAT Vice Chair Claudio Grossman in preparing for the official UN CAT meetings in November. The extensive preparation includes a for-credit seminar with specialized readings and instruction about the UN CAT. Students also research and synthesize vast materials concerning torture and human rights in pertinent countries, meeting regularly to strategize and draft papers identifying and outlining potential compliance issues with the operative treaty (the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). In November, the students typically accompany Dean Grossman and his Special Assistant to Geneva for one week, witnessing firsthand the public "dialogue" between the UN CAT and the State Party representatives while carefully tracking the exchanges for germane developments and possible inconsistencies or matters requiring clarification or research. Following the group's return to WCL, the unique education and awareness gained through the UN CAT Project continue through student articles, presentations, activities and the like. Learn more at http://www.wcl.american.edu/ilp/uncat.cfm.

  • Genocide Teaching Project: Supported by the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, the Project trains WCL students to teach about the legal concept of genocide in area high schools, including a discussion of the Genocide Convention (1948), a brief overview of genocides that have taken place throughout history, and the types of behavior and actions which may lead to genocide. The two lesson plans include a 90-minute lesson on the genocide in Rwanda and a 45-minute lesson on the current violence in Darfur, Sudan. After the students learn about these two crises, the lessons conclude by having the students identify actions they can take - as individuals and as a group - to impact the situation in Sudan and to ensure that genocide does not happen again. Therefore, the Center encourages high-school teachers as well as advocates and practitioners to use these lesson plans to teach young people about the need to take responsibility for egregious abuses and to speak out for those with no voice. For more information and to learn how you can get involved, visit http://www.wcl.american.edu/humright/center/rwanda/lesson.cfm.

  • The Innocence Project: WCL students can work with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP), a non-profit organization dedicated to correcting and preventing wrongful convictions in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Through a 20-member Board of Directors, a staff of one full-time and one part-time lawyer, and a wide network of attorney and student volunteers, MAIP works to identify wrongfully convicted prisoners in our region. They then provide them with pro bono investigative and legal assistance so they can obtain their freedom. WCL students also work with MAIP to educate judges, legislators, and the public about the causes of wrongful convictions, in hopes that such education will lead to changes in our laws and our society that will prevent wrongful convictions in the future. For more information, visit the WCL website at http://www.wcl.american.edu/innocenceproject.