Neighborhood Law & Policy Clinic
The Neighborhood Law & Policy Clinic takes a community-based approach to serving the civil legal needs of the indigent population of the District of Columbia. We keep abreast of local trends related to poverty and access to justice, and craft a caseload that is responsive to community needs. Students who participate in the clinic can expect to handle cases primarily in federal and local administrative tribunals, and perhaps to engage in policy advocacy in front of rulemaking bodies and the DC Council. While the clinic’s caseload varies from semester to semester, a typical case docket might include housing, public benefits, and early termination of parole cases. The clinic has a particular focus on “reentry” issues and seeks to meet the legal needs of ex-offenders.
This is an intensive litigation clinic, and students are responsible for lawyering their cases from intake to trial. Students interview clients, develop factual and legal theories, conduct research, prepare witnesses, negotiate with opposing parties, write briefs and motions, present oral arguments, and conduct full evidentiary hearings. The clinic also engages in local policy advocacy and students may have the opportunity to prepare white papers, draft rules and statutes, and deliver testimony at public hearings.
Students in the clinic learn to effectively undertake the responsibilities of lawyers, and to consider the possibilities and limits of the lawyer’s role. They are challenged and encouraged to think through strategic decisions at every stage of the client representation. Given the range of the clinic’s caseload, students learn how to utilize different statutory and regulatory frameworks to craft causes of action and defenses, and become familiar with the ways in which different tribunals adjudicate disputes. Exposure to more than one area of law in the clinic teaches students how to acquire new knowledge quickly and should strengthen students’ confidence in tackling unfamiliar legal issues in future practice.