J.D. PROGRAM — FIRST YEAR
Finally, the reforms emphasize training that will help graduates transition to the real world of practice.
Foundational courses for all areas of legal practice—and thus strongly recommended for all Upper Division students— include Evidence, Corporations, and Criminal Procedure.
Practice Area Course Offerings
There are many career choices available to today’s lawyers. To assist upper-division students in planning their academic programs, the faculty has organized elective offerings into 32 course clusters grouped by practice area.
In addition to live-client clinical programs, the law school offers externship opportunities at hundreds of agencies and organizations in the D.C. area. Academic credit may be earned for externships working in such settings as Congress, the courts, the Department of Justice, and other federal and local government agencies, in addition to local and national law firms, public interest organizations, trade associations, and corporations.
Columbus Community Legal Services
Columbus Community Legal Services (CCLS) was established in 1969 in response to student demand for an opportunity to use their legal training in service to the community. Since its inception, CCLS has provided free, high-quality legal services to thousands of needy individuals and families who live in the District of Columbia.
In each of the four CCLS clinics, students have primary responsibility for their clients' cases. The students draft pleadings, deal with opposing counsel, argue motions, conduct hearings before local and federal agencies, conduct trials in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and present appeals to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The clinics' supervising attorneys interact daily with students and closely monitor case strategy and development. A supervising attorney also accompanies each student to all court appearances. CCLS is located on the first floor of the law school in a suite of offices that contains clinic faculty and administrative offices and clinic student work rooms.
General Practice Clinic
In the General Practice Clinic, law students serve the local community through legal representation of indigent clients and nonprofit groups. Students encounter the reality of legal practice in the context of a small general practice law office. Students have primary responsibility for their clients’ cases.
The General Practice Clinic provides students with the opportunity to handle civil law cases on behalf of low-income residents of the District of Columbia. The caseload of the clinic consists primarily of public benefits, consumer, employment, wills, guardianships, and family law matters. These cases offer the full range of client representation before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. The General Practice Clinic is designed to help students develop skills in interviewing, counseling, negotiating, drafting, motions practice, trial techniques, law practice management, and reflective lawyering.
In addition to the clinical work, there is a seminar component of the course and weekly supervisory sessions. The seminar includes participatory exercises in interviewing, counseling, negotiation, selected aspects of trial techniques, and structured discussions of legal ethics, recent common law, and statutory development. Students also participate in a limited legal assistance community project during the course of the semester. The General Practice Clinic requires an average of 20 hours per week from each student.
Families and the Law Clinic
The Families and the Law Clinic (FALC) is designed to help students develop lawyering skills through a focus on a particular substantive area of practice: domestic violence, family law, or immigration. FALC students help their clients address immediate safety needs and assert their legal rights by obtaining emergency temporary and year-long civil protection orders. Students also represent clients in longer-term litigation arising from abusive family situations, including resolving complex divorce, legal separation, property and debt distribution, custody, visitation, and child support matters. The clinic also assists immigrant victims of domestic violence seeking legal status and employment authorization through VAWA self-petitions, battered spouse waivers, and U visas. In addition to representing persons who would otherwise proceed pro se, FALC students learn to work with our client population, develop an understanding of poverty and the dynamics of domestic violence, develop trial techniques, refine research and writing skills, and hone other lawyering skills, such as counseling, interviewing, and negotiating.
FALC faculty and students also participate in a number of community projects and engage in policy work designed to address the entrenched social problems contributing to domestic violence on a systemic level. For example, FALC recently organized and facilitated regular legal information clinics at an emergency safe house funded by D.C.’s Crime Victims Compensation Program (CVC safe house), volunteered at the D.C. Superior Court Family Court Self-Help Center, and drafted educational materials and presentations on new legal protections for teen victims of dating violence in D.C.
Students participate in a weekly seminar in which a variety of family law, poverty law, professional responsibility, advocacy, and lawyering skills are covered through lectures, discussions, participatory exercises, and simulations. Students also have opportunities during the seminar to share information and insights about their clinical experience. In addition, weekly tutorial sessions with a faculty member are held with each student. The Families and the Law Clinic requires an average of 20 hours per week from each student.
Advocacy for the Elderly
Advocacy for the Elderly permits students, under faculty supervision, to provide direct representation to elderly clients on various civil matters. It was the first law school clinic in the nation developed specifically to provide evening-division students with a client representation experience. Our students currently are helping their clients solve problems dealing with fly-by-night contractors, custody of their grandchildren, estate planning, Social Security, domestic relations, pensions, real estate, and environmental protection. Seminars and meetings with supervisors are scheduled during evening and weekend hours. Except for hearings, meetings, and other client business that must be scheduled during the day, most clinic work can be done during evenings or weekends. Preference in enrollment is given to evening-division students.
Consumer Protection Project
In 2010, CCLS was selected as a recipient of a portion of unclaimed proceeds from a consumer class action settlement. CCLS used this generous gift to form the Consumer Protection Project (CPP). Today, the Consumer Protection Project equips at-risk consumers who might not otherwise be able to afford or access legal representation with the information and advice they need to protect their legal rights in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and the District of Columbia.
As part of the Consumer Protection Project, students attend a weekly seminar, participate in community legal educational outreach, and provide direct client representation. Students assist low-income Maryland and District of Columbia residents on a range of consumer-related matters such as bankruptcy, debt collection, wrongful repossessions, identity theft, and credit scams. Students also develop "know your rights" outreach programs, and conduct limited advice clinics for Maryland and District of Columbia residents.
CPP is open to all 2nd and 3rd year students and there are no course prerequisites. Students may sign up for either 4, 5, or 6 credit hours. All credit options include mandatory attendance at the weekly class seminar. The 4 credit option requires students to commit 13 hours per week to the project; the 5 credit option requires students to commit 17 hours per week to the project; and the 6 credit option requires students to commit 20 hours per week to the project. The weekly time commitment includes the weekly seminar.
Innocence Project Clinic and Clemency Project
The Innocence Project Clinic & Clemency Project provides services to individuals in two types of matters, those involving claims of actual innocence and those involving requests for executive clemency in the absence of actual innocence.
Through direct service to incarcerated inmates convicted of serious crimes who maintain their actual innocence, students in the CUA Innocence Project Clinic & Clemency Project develop essential lawyering skills: oral and written communication, investigation, interviewing, counseling, negotiating, professional judgment, and creative problem-solving. Students evaluate case histories — including review of trial transcripts, appellate briefs, medical reports, laboratory reports, and other documents — and fully reinvestigate the events that led to the arrest and conviction of the inmate. Students also may interview prisoners, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and expert and lay witnesses during their investigations. If the investigation reveals a viable claim of innocence, the matter is referred to an outside cooperating attorney who will undertake representation of the inmate to prosecute the claim of innocence. Whenever possible, students from the CUA Innocence Project Clinic will be assigned to work with the cooperating attorney in prosecution of the inmate’s claim.
The second area in which the Clinic provides service is to individuals who have been convicted of felonies in federal court who wish to seek a commutation of a sentence or full pardon from the President of the United States. In the clemency cases, the students fully investigate the circumstances leading to the conviction or convictions and the petitioner's conduct after the conviction and assist the individual in preparing and filing a petition for clemency with the Office of Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice.
In addition to working on claims of actual innocence on behalf of inmates and clemency petitions, students in this Clinic participate in a weekly seminar that examines the lawyering skills and processes necessary for investigating a claim of innocence and petition for clemency; state and federal post conviction procedures (e.g., motions for new trial based on new evidence, state collateral attack, federal habeas corpus, and clemency); the nature and uses of DNA and other scientific evidence; and problems in the criminal justice system that may contribute to convicting the innocent, such as ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct, witness misidentification, false confessions, and tainted evidence. The students also may participate in research and writing projects on issues to reform the criminal justice system to reduce the frequency of wrongful convictions, to address the problems faced by exonerated inmates upon their release from prison and reintegration into free society, or to improve the procedures for granting executive clemency.
Students earn six credits in this year-long clinic, three credits each semester. The written work in the clinic satisfies the requirements for the upper-level writing requirement portfolio credit, and participation in the clinic satisfies the upper-level skills course requirement. All credits are graded.
Criminal Prosecution Clinic
The Criminal Prosecution Clinic is a four-credit, one-semester course (offered in the spring semester only) that provides eligible students with a rigorous and intensive exposure to criminal prosecution practice through a combination of actual trial practice and classroom work. Students are supervised closely by assistant state attorneys in preparing and prosecuting misdemeanor criminal matters in one of the local jurisdictions.
In addition, the prosecuting attorneys or their supervisors conduct a weekly two-hour seminar that introduces students to the skills required to appear in court on behalf of the government in criminal cases.
The Columbus School of Law has one of the most highly regarded legal externship programs in the United States. Through this program, about 200 upperclass students per year earn course credits during the fall, spring, and summer by working in nonprofit organizations; federal, state, and local government agencies; Congress; and for judges, law firms, trade associations and corporations in the D.C. area. Here is a list of some of the hundreds of organizations and agencies where CUA students have done externships.
- American Bar Association
- Catholic Charities, USA
- CUA Office of General Counsel
- Children's Defense Fund
- Death Penalty Information Center
- D.C. Attorney General
- D.C. City Council
- D.C. Court of Appeals
- D.C. Prisoners' Legal Services
- D.C. Public Defender Service
- Defenders of Wildlife
- Department of Homeland Security
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Federal Communications Commission
- Food Research and Action Center
- Legal Aid Society of D.C.
- Montgomery County District Attorney
- NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Organization of American States
- Superior Court of the District of Columbia
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- U.S. Army Office of the Judge Advocate General
- U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
- U.S. Department of Education
- U.S. Department of Justice
- U.S. Department of Labor
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
- U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
- Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
- Whitman-Walker Clinic Legal Services
Students may enroll in externships after completing the required first-year courses. A student may earn two or three credits per semester for externships and, as explained below, will earn two credits for an externship seminar during the first externship for credit. A two-credit externship requires 120 hours of work, and a three-credit externship requires 180 hours of work. Students submit detailed time logs to their faculty supervisors. Fieldwork for credit must be uncompensated. Each student must be supervised by a lawyer or another professional who is employed by the placement organization.
For the first externship, in addition to fieldwork, most students participate in a two-credit professional development seminar called Becoming a Lawyer. In the seminars, students present their field experiences and discuss professional goals, ethical dilemmas, and the legal profession. For the second or subsequent externship, students register for the fieldwork through Supervised Fieldwork and receive tutorial supervision from a faculty member.
Students are responsible for securing their own placements but may seek advice or guidance from Professor Mary Leary, the Director of Experiential Education, or from staff in the Office of Career and Professional Development. Find an online database of placement opportunities at http://externships.law.edu. Notices of current listings of externship opportunities are posted at https://law-cua-csm.symplicity.com.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Catholic University of America
- Message from the President
- Officers of the University
- Officers of Administration
- The Mission Statement of The
Catholic University of America
- Accreditation and Memberships
- Schools of the University
- Academic Resources
- Academic Calendar
- Special Lecture Series
- The Law School Today
- A Highly Selective Law School
- Mission Statement
- Academic Programs
- Day and Evening Divisions
- Employment Restrictions
- Degree and Graduation Requirements
- Changes and Notices
- Specialized Practice Areas and Programs
- Grading and Evaluation
- Honors, Awards, and Prizes
- Records and Transcripts
- Fees and Expenses
- Payment Plans
- Tuition Refund Policy
- Return of Federal Student Aid Funds
- Financial Aid
- Employment Opportunities
- Office of Career and Professional Development
- Cocurricular Activities
- Student Organizations
- Student Life
- Course Requirements
- Practice Area Course Offerings
- Course Descriptions
- Academic Rules
- Rules of Professional Conduct for Law Students
- Notification of Law School About Criminal Charges and Convictions
- Statement of Nondiscrimination
Columbus School of Law