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The Independent Clinical program is designed for those students who are interested in a specialized area of the law or field of practice, and are willing to put in the time and effort involved in designing their own educational experience.
Students must have completed an existing HLS clinic or externship before they are eligible for Independent Clinical credit. This means that 2L students who wish to do an Independent Clinical in Winter term must complete a clinical course for credit in the Fall of their 2L year. This requires careful advance planning.
Setting up an Independent Clinical project requires a great deal of work. Liz Solar and Jill Crockett in the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) manage the Independent Clinical Program, and are available to assist students designing an Independent Clinical project. Their contact information is as follows:
|Liz Solar: Domestic Placements|
6 Everett Street, Suite 3085 (WCC)
|Jill Crockett: International Placements|
6 Everett Street, Suite 3085 (WCC)
All Independent Clinicals are 2 credit courses. During Fall and Spring semesters, two clinical credits represents 10 hours per week of work. During Winter Term, students must work full-time for the term (40 hours/week) to receive two clinical credits.
Getting Started | Picking a Placement Organization | Securing a Supervising Attorney | Selecting a Faculty Sponsor
Planning the Project Details | Submitting an Application | Student Responsibilities | Supervisor Evaluations and Grading
Funding (Winter Term Only)
To initiate the Independent Clinical process, students must meet with either Liz Solar or Jill Crockett in the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) to discuss their ideas about placement settings, supervising attorneys, and faculty sponsors, as well as the details of the work they will be proposing. Students should stay in touch as they develop and refine their proposed projects. An application has to be approved by OCP in order to be eligible for clinical credits. Not every application is approved, and students should pay careful attention to the various requirements, which are described below.
Group projects (students going to the same placement with the same project) involving more than three students are not permitted. Group projects involving three or fewer students must be extremely strong to be approved. Each student must submit a separate proposal indicating their specific plans and how their individual participation is essential to the project.
Students may work at legal services, public interest and other nonprofit organizations, criminal defense agencies, governmental agencies or the judiciary. Projects may include direct client services as well as broad based advocacy, but must involve legal work supervised by a licensed attorney.
Students may do an Independent Clinical project in the Fall, Winter or Spring terms. A number of students take the opportunity to work at organizations away from campus during the Winter term. Students may apply for limited funding for a Winter term Independent Clinical project (see "Funding" below).
Independent Clinical projects are not available at placements already offered through an existing clinical course or at an in-house clinic, or in placements that are duplicative of offerings in existing clinics.
Work on political campaigns is not eligible for clinical credit but may count towards the pro bono requirement if it meets certain criteria. Approval for projects in the private sector is extremely limited and is determined on a case-by-case basis. Private sector projects must be done on a pro bono basis and focused solely on matters related to the public interest. Students may not receive compensation for any work that results in clinical credit.
OCP does not provide a list of pre-approved organizations that have hosted Independent Clinical students in the past, as each project is intended to be “independent” and specific to a particular student’s interests. However, students are encouraged to search HELIOS to check if other HLS students have evaluated an organization that they are considering as a placement organization.
Students must secure a Supervising Attorney who will be responsible for directly supervising their work throughout their placement. Supervisors will receive a Supervisor Handbook from OCP setting forth the requirements for defining work expectations and goals, conducting regular meetings with students, and evaluating performance.
It is essential that students develop their project proposal in collaboration with their prospective supervisor. This will help ensure that students propose work that is realistic, focused and in line with the mission of the placement organization. This will also allow students to be productive and maximize the available opportunities once they begin work.
An HLS Faculty Sponsor is required for all Independent Clinical projects. The Faculty Sponsor will monitor the academic component of the Independent Clinical. Each student is required to write a 15-page academic paper (not a reflection paper) related to some aspect of the work of the placement organization or the field of practice. The paper cannot be work product the student produces during the placement, and must involve some original research and analysis of policy or practice. The paper topic should be developed in advance with the assistance of the Faculty Sponsor and must be identified in the Application.
Faculty Sponsors must:
This is the opportunity for the student to digest and synthesize all of the ideas, reading, discussion and feedback they have obtained into a workable project that is realistic and achievable. The more thought that the student puts into the planning of their work, the more likely they will be to have a rich learning experience and a successful placement. Students should outline their specific responsibilities during the placement in as much detail as possible, along with the various activities they will be involved in.
Complete the Independent Clinical Application (Harvard Legal Aid Bureau students must also submit the HLAB Supplemental Approval Form).
Incomplete applications will not be considered until all the necessary parts are submitted. Projects submitted after the deadline will also not be considered.
The following documents need to be attached to the Application:
Applications are due to the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs in WCC 3085 by the following deadlines:
Fall 2013: September 4, 2013
Winter 2014: November 1, 2013
Spring 2014: January 17, 2014
A basic premise of clinical legal education is that learning comes about through the self-conscious application of reflection to actual experience. There will be many opportunities for reflection during the implementation of the project. In addition, all students are required to submit the following:
Students must submit weekly progress reports via email to their Faculty Sponsor and to Liz Solar (firstname.lastname@example.org) at OCP for domestic placements, or Jill Crockett (email@example.com) at OCP for international placements. These will not be shared with Supervising Attorneys. Emails should contain a discussion of the work performed together with a reflection on what was learned. Faculty are not required to respond to the weekly emails, but are encouraged to do so if they have useful feedback or suggestions.
The 15 page academic paper is due to the Faculty Sponsor and OCP at the end of the placement. This cannot be a reflection paper, nor can it be work product produced during a placement. It must include some original research and an analysis of policy or practice related to the work of the student or placement organization. The final paper will not be shared with Supervising Attorneys unless students give permission.
Final papers are due to OCP and your Faculty Sponsor by the following deadlines:
Fall 2013: December 6, 2013
Winter 2014: January 24, 2014
Spring 2014: April 25, 2014
Students’ experiences and opinions are extremely important to the continuing efforts to improve the quality of clinical legal education at Harvard Law School and to determine the appropriateness and effectiveness of specific placements. At the end of the semester, students are required to complete a placement evaluation to assess the placement organization, the supervision received, and the value of the clinical experience. Please be as frank, specific, and constructive as possible.
Note: The clinical evaluations are completed online through HELIOS. Responses do not affect grading, as the information reported is not reviewed outside of OCP until after the semester's grading process has been completed. The evaluation is not shared with the Placement Organization.
Students must pay careful attention to client confidentiality when submitting progress reports, final papers, and evaluations, and must make sure that they do not reveal client or organizational confidences, including any identifying information or case strategy.
Students must avoid holding themselves out as representatives of Harvard Law School when representing or communicating with individual clients or with outside organizations. While it may be appropriate for a student to identify themselves as an HLS student, it is not appropriate or accurate to suggest to a client that he or she is being represented by Harvard Law School or Harvard University. Students must understand that their work does not reflect the judgment or opinions of Harvard Law School and that Harvard Law School does not direct or supervise their project.
Students are encouraged to meet regularly with their Supervisors for feedback throughout the semester and to initiate an exit interview at the end of the semester to discuss the Supervisor's evaluation. Supervising Attorneys are required to provide two written evaluations of students' work - a Mid-Semester Evaluation and a Final Evaluation - to assess performance, judgment, progress, and other factors. (During the Winter Term, Supervisors only have to complete the Final Evaluation.)
All Independent Clinicals are 2 credit courses and are graded Credit/Fail. Supervising Attorneys will recommend either a Credit or Fail grade to the Faculty Sponsor, who will also take into account the final paper when assigning the final grade.
Some funding is given to selected students who have proposed the most well-constructed, realistic Independent Clinical projects during the Winter term. This is to offset the cost of transportation and housing while the student is off campus. Applications for funding should be reasonable and necessary for the completion of the project. Students should not make travel or housing commitments until they know whether funding has been awarded, as funding is not guaranteed.
The pool of funding is limited and it is quite possible that some worthy projects may not be funded in any given year. Even in cases where funding is awarded, the full amount requested may not be approved.
Domestic and international projects have different funding requirements and deadlines. Domestic funding is administered by OCP and international funding is administered by International Legal Studies. Students should pay careful attention to the relevant requirements and be sure to leave enough time to obtain the necessary documents.
In reviewing application materials, OCP considers the following:
Students traveling internationally must fulfill the requirements set forth by Harvard University and Harvard Law School. Please visit the International Legal Studies website for all necessary details. Students are urged to do this early in their planning process.
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