Clinical Legal Education FAQs
SPECIAL NOTE: The Clinical Education Program will be on hiatus for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years. For more information contact the Dean's Office at 701-777-2104.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Law Clinic?
- A graded, 1-semester, limited enrollment, 7-credit course available to second and third year law students; all 7 credits are classroom credits;
- Taught by 2 fulltime, tenure-track professors;
- Students must apply to enroll in the Law Clinic when they register for courses each semester;
- Students are licensed to represent clients, with supervision by licensed faculty members, under a North Dakota court rule;
- Students represent clients in legal matters involving employment or housing law, such as discrimination, unemployment insurance, wage and hour, and landlord/tenant issues;
- Students also work on community projects, often by giving presentations on the law;
- Has a structured, educational focus with a small number of students accepted each semester;
- Likewise, the program is only able to represent a small number of clients each semester;
- Students study law, procedure, and ethics while connecting these lessons to their representation of real clients, under the close supervision of faculty;
- Has existed in its current form since the 2002-03 academic year.
May a student complete an externship for credit and enroll in the Law Clinic during their law school career?
Yes, but not at the same time. Because externships and the Law Clinic course both require a large time commitment, it is not possible for a student to do both at the same time. Students may enroll in the Law Clinic and an externship in consecutive semesters their second or third years of Law School.
How many hours does the Law Clinic course require?
Approximately 20 hours per week. This includes three hours of seminar classes, an hour-and-a-half case supervision session with faculty and team members assigned to their cases, an hour-an-a-half student team meeting, case-related work, and preparation for the two seminar classes each week.
May a student work while enrolled in the Law Clinic course?
We strongly recommend that students do not work during the semester when they are enrolled in the Law Clinic course for the same reason that we do not accept students into the Law Clinic course who have already been accepted for an externship the same semester. The time commitment required by the course work, the need to be responsive to clients, and the requirement of collaboration with other students makes it very difficult for students to meet their course requirements if they also have a job with daytime work hours. Part-time evening and weekend jobs do not tend to pose a problem.
How is the Law Clinic course different from an Externship?
In the Law Clinic course, students work in teams of 2-4 students who are assigned several matters that they are responsible for. Unlike in an externship, the law students are the lawyers for their clients, so they must get to know their case and their client and determine what they should be doing for their clients to pursue their case.
For example, the students will decide when to file a complaint in court, which court to file it in, and how and when to communicate these decisions to their client and to opposing counsel. Faculty provide feedback and guidance on this process, but the faculty supervisors do not tell the students what needs to be done or how it should be completed. The students do the legal research and write memos analyzing the possible steps to take in a case, determining which law applies to the facts, and thus which deadlines apply. Students often write several drafts of emails, memos, letters, or documents to file with the court before they are finalized. Those drafts are reviewed by the other students on their case team who are expected to provide substantive feedback and they are also reviewed by the supervising faculty member. In this way, students receive the benefit of feedback from peers and faculty on their legal research, writing, and analysis.
The Law Clinic course meets for three hours of seminar class each week, which focuses on a combination of substantive law (sexual harassment law, fair housing law), ethical issues (representation of clients who are limited English proficient, ensuring effective client communication), or practical skills (how to take a deposition, how to file a motion). One class a week is used for "case rounds," where students on a case team present one of their cases to the class as a whole and raise a question related to their case for discussion. Case rounds provide an opportunity for students to practice their oral presentation skills and to receive valuable feedback and advice from students who are not on their case team. Also, the Law Clinic course has a specific focus on encouraging the students to reflect on their experiences, including weekly journal entries and initial and mid-term self- evaluations.
What Law Clinic Is Not
- Students aren't "working" in the Law Clinic, in the sense that the program is not like a job nor is it job-shadowing.
- Students do not "assist" lawyers in handling cases; rather, students themselves handle the cases under supervision.
- There is no outside grant funding or Legal Services Corporation (LSC) money to provide legal services to any population. Clients and cases are selected based on the potential educational value of their legal matters.