Columbus Community Legal Services (CCLS) consists of four distinct in-house, live-client representation clinics: Veterans Advocacy and Estate Planning Clinic; the Families and the Law Clinic; the Civil Practice Clinic; and the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. Below are some of the frequently asked questions regarding enrollment in one of the CCLS clinics. If you have any additional questions, please contact Paul Kurth, Managing Director, at (202) 319-6788 or stop by our office on the first floor of the law school.
1. What are the benefits of enrolling in one of the CCLS clinics?
CCLS offers you an opportunity to put theory into practice and to learn by doing. Operating like a law firm, CCLS allows students to gain hands-on experience representing clients, identifying case issues, applying substantive law, and drafting legal memoranda, motions, pleadings, client letters, and trial preparation documents. With close supervision, you are able to provide high-quality representation to underserved members of our community. Not only is there a substantial benefit to you and the clients whom you represent, but employers like to see that, during law school, you have gained experience by representing real clients on real cases. As a clinic student, you will gain marketable skills, benefit from faculty mentorship, and expand your professional network. The skills that you acquire as a clinic student will not only prepare you for graduation and for the bar exam, but will also bolster your confidence in the next steps of your career.
2. What is the difference between a CCLS clinic and an externship?
Unlike legal externship programs, enrollment in CCLS allows you to gain first-chair experience and to take full responsibility for advancing your clients’ cases. When certified under the court rules, students may perform all of the tasks that licensed attorneys are authorized to perform, including researching and writing briefs, drafting wills and settlement agreements, arguing motions, interviewing and counseling clients, negotiating with opposing parties and counsel, presenting community legal education programs, conducting depositions and trials, and preparing and submitting immigration applications. CCLS supervisors serve as a resource to students, and provide guidance and feedback at every step, but it is the students who take the lead in our work.
3. What are the requirements for a student to gain special admission to practice under the local student practice rule?
Rule 48 of the D.C. Court of Appeals governs the requirements for law students who seek special admission to engage in the limited practice of law in the District of Columbia and Rule 16 of The Court of Appeals in Maryland. In general, the rule requires that the Rule 48 and Rule 16 law student applicant have successfully completed 28 semester credit hours.
4. To take one of the CCLS clinics, do you have to be eligible for certification under the local student practice rule?
No. In order to enroll in one of the CCLS clinics, a student does not have to be eligible for certification under Rule 48, the student practice rule. Although students who are ineligible under the rule cannot present cases in Superior Court, they are able to handle all other aspects of their clients' cases under the supervision of licensed attorneys. For example, they may interview and counsel clients, engage in informal and formal discovery, negotiate with opposing counsel, and be present at counsel table during the actual trial. Moreover, uncertified students are able to represent clients in some administrative hearings before government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration.
5. Must I have already taken Family Law or any other course?
No, there are no course prerequisites for enrollment in any of the CCLS clinics. While it can be very helpful to have taken Family Law or Evidence, we have made a conscious decision to have no prerequisites. We have designed each of the clinic seminars with the assumption that we will need to cover the basics in all the areas of our practice. Students in the clinic have relatively few cases in order to allow for time to plan, research and discuss with their supervisors all aspects of their cases.
6. Can first-semester, second-year day students enroll in CCLS?
Yes, first-semester, second-year day students are welcome to enroll in the General Practice Clinic, the Families and the Law Clinic, or the Consumer Protection Project.
7. Is there a danger in waiting until the last semester of my third year to enroll in CCLS?
Yes, if you wait until the last semester of your last year to try to enroll in one of the CCLS clinics, you take a risk that you may be bumped from enrollment in CCLS. Traditionally, more students compete for the limited spots available in CCLS during the spring semester of their third year. Thus, by waiting until that time to enroll, you risk the chance that you will be precluded from registering due to the large number of your other colleagues who are also attempting to register for the clinic.
8. Does enrollment in a clinic fulfill professional skills and legal writing graduation course requirements?
Yes, enrollment in a clinic may satisfy both the professional skills course requirement and the upper division writing requirement.
Professional Skills Requirement
Per the American Bar Association requirement that all students take at least one professional skills course prior to graduation, enrollment in a CCLS clinical program satisfies this requirement.
Upper Division Writing Requirement
Consistent with the language of Section X of the Academic Rules regarding the law school’s writing requirement, a student who is currently enrolled in a CCLS clinical program may, with the approval of the supervisor, elect to complete this requirement through work in the clinic by completing a writing portfolio. The student who wishes to satisfy the law school’s writing requirement through clinic work must notify his or her clinic supervisor within three weeks of the start of the semester. If a student seeks permission after the three week period, the supervisor, at his or her discretion, may grant such a request. Students who have any questions regarding this policy should speak with their supervisor or the CCLS managing director.
9. Does enrollment in a clinic satisfy institute and special program certificate requirements?
10. Do CCLS faculty supervise directed research?
Yes, a CCLS faculty member may, at his or her discretion, supervise a directed research project. Interested students should contact faculty members directly.
11. Are there special course scheduling issues that I should consider prior to making a commitment to enroll in any of the CCLS clinics?
Students who wish to enroll in the Families and the Law Clinic or the Civil Practice Clinic should make every effort to keep their Thursdays clear for the scheduling of court hearings and other clinic activities.
12. What is the time commitment?
Students enrolled in the Families and the Law Clinic or the General Practice Clinic for 6 credits are expected to spend approximately 20 hours per week on clinic-related activity (including the clinic seminar). Students participating in the Consumer Protection Project may choose to enroll for four, five, or six credits and should expect to commit between 14 to 20 hours per week to the project. Evening students enrolled in Veterans Advocacy and Estate Planning Clinic may choose to enroll from four to six credits and also have varying time commitments depending upon the number of credits selected.
However, the demands of our cases do not always align in predictable weekly segments, and as a result, there may be weeks when cases require students to devote more time to clinic work. We understand that our students have other obligations and work with them to manage their time.
13. Does clinic participation count toward pro bono hours?
Clinic work that is required for academic credit cannot be counted toward the Columbus School of Law's pro bono challenge.
14. Does clinic participation satisfy the pro bono requirement for admission to the New York Bar?
Yes, participation in a clinical program at Columbus Community Legal Services will fulfill the pro bono requirement for New York State bar admission. Pursuant to Rule § 520.16 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals for the Admission of Attorneys and Counselors at Law, every applicant admitted to the New York State bar on or after January 1, 2015, other than applicants for admission without examination, is required to complete at least 50 hours of qualifying pro bono service prior to filing an application for admission. According to New York State Chief Judge Lippman, clinics are the best places to get that experience!
15. How can clinical experience set me apart from other job applicants?
As a clinic student, you will gain marketable skills, expand your professional network, and benefit from faculty mentorship.
Clinic students are able to tell prospective employers compelling stories about their experiences interviewing and counseling clients, conducting negotiations, researching, drafting, and arguing motions, pursuing written discovery, conducting depositions and full trials, compiling and submitting immigration applications, drafting wills and complex settlement agreements, organizing and presenting community legal education programs, preparing and delivering talking points on policy initiatives, etc.
Through cases, policy projects, and community education work, students have unique opportunities to interact, and make valuable connections, with attorneys, advocates, government agencies, private firms, and public interest organizations. Our small student/ faculty ratio allows faculty supervisors to provide ongoing substantive feedback on your work.
16. How can clinical experience help me prepare for the bar exam?
There is no better way to learn substantive laws than by actually navigating its permutations as you work on clients’ cases. CCLS students are at an advantage when studying for the bar exam because they have hands-on experience identifying case issues, applying substantive law, and drafting legal memoranda, motions, pleadings, client letters, and trial prep documents. Through classroom simulation exercises and casework, CCLS students engage with various areas of law, including civil procedure, criminal procedure, family law, evidence, trusts and estates, contract law, and the rules of professional responsibility.
17. Does Columbus Community Legal Services have volunteer opportunities?
CCLS periodically has short-term volunteer opportunities for students interested in participating in research, policy advocacy, community engagement, interpreter/translation services, and other projects. These opportunities may count towards the law school's Pro Bono Challenge. For more information, contact Paul Kurth at 202-319-6788.
18. Does Columbus Community Legal Services offer employment opportunities?
Yes, CCLS offers several full-time, paid summer internships to students of the Columbus School of Law. Summer interns are assigned to handle on-going cases, and take full responsibility for advancing their clients’ cases. When certified under the court rules, summer interns may perform all of the tasks that licensed attorneys are authorized to perform, including researching and writing briefs, drafting wills and settlement agreements, arguing motions, interviewing and counseling clients, negotiating with opposing parties and counsel, presenting community legal education programs, conducting depositions and trials, and preparing and submitting immigration applications. CCLS supervisors provide guidance and feedback at every step. Traditionally, students who have previously enrolled in a CCLS clinic receive preference for these positions.
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