Semester in Washington 2010

Spring 2010: 5 clinical credits, 4 class credits, 1 writing credit (10 total credits)
Optional Winter Term: 2 clinical credits
Application deadline: Friday, October 23, 2009

Program Overview

Students will spend the entire Spring semester (except for Spring break) in Washington, D.C. working as legal interns in a variety of federal offices while taking a concurrent course called "Government Lawyering – Policy & Practice: Semester in Washington." Placements will be in offices where lawyers provide legal advice and assistance on policy, legislative and regulatory matters, rather than on litigation and enforcement cases. Students also enroll in an independent writing project supervised by a member of the HLS faculty in Cambridge on a topic related to government lawyering*. Students may also elect to start the program early by spending the Winter term in Washington, D.C. working full-time at their host offices.

Clinical Placements

Placements will be coordinated by the program director, James Flug, in consultation with students. Clinical work will expose students to the distinct forms of lawyering practiced by government attorneys in diverse positions in the federal government. Students are required to work full-time, at least 25 hours a week. Clinical placements may span various practice settings in the Congress and in federal agencies and departments. Placements in the 2009 program included House and Senate Judiciary and HELP Committees, Departments of Justice, Treasury and Defense, GAO, the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, and the Helsinki Commission. Students will meet individually on a regular basis with the program director to discuss their work progress. Note that every effort will be made to provide a placement on each student’s preference list, but students who are accepted in the program may need to commit to the Semester in Washington program prior to confirmation of a definite placement (see ‘Timeline’ below for more detail). Clinical work fulfills the JD pro bono requirement. 

Students may choose to start their placements early by spending the Winter Term working full-time in Washington, D.C., supplemented by a weekly two-hour group discussion, for an additional 2 clinical credits. Some 2009 participants found the Winter option enhanced their overall work experience.

Course Component

Students will attend class twice a week in the Spring semester, with readings and classroom discussions supplemented by guest speaker events or visits to key government offices approximately every other week. The Government Lawyer course will focus on the many forces that constrain or empower the application of lawyering skills in federal government offices. It will examine the special roles and skills required of government attorneys, the unique ethical, legal and moral issues they may face, and the impact of politics and ideology on their work. The course will include student discussions of their experiences in their clinical placements. Three short papers relating to the student's work or to classroom subjects will be required in lieu of an examination. The course fulfills the Professional Responsibility requirement.

Writing Component*

Students will be required to write a 1-credit academic paper on a topic related to government lawyering with a member of the HLS faculty. Students should choose a faculty sponsor who has expertise in the area which the student wishes to write about. Faculty sponsors must be HLS professors (lecturers, fellows, visiting faculty, or non-HLS professors are ineligible). This paper can also fulfill Option 1 of the JD Written Work requirement.

Travel and Housing

Students will be reimbursed for one round-trip travel between Boston and Washington, D.C. (or the equivalent). Other living expenses, including housing, utilities, public transportation, meals, etc., are the responsibility of the student. Students are responsible for the arrangement of housing. Students receiving financial aid may request supplemental loan amounts of up to $1200 to enable them to participate in the program. Applicants should consider whether the program will preclude or restrict their participation in certain campus activities, and if so be prepared to make appropriate arrangements.


  • Application deadline: Rolling
  • Placement notification to students: November 2009. Please note that given the nature of government office hiring and the timing of security clearances it is possible that placements may not be finalized until after you commit to this program. We make every effort to place students at one of their top choices, but your decision to take the Semester in Washington program may have to be made before you know your final placement.


Enrollment is by application only, and limited to 2L and 3L students.  Students must be enrolled full-time at Harvard Law School in 2009-2010 to apply.  Students in joint-degree programs or who are considering study abroad should speak with those offices to determine if you are also eligible to participate in the Semester in Washington program.

To apply, students must submit an application form, current resume, academic transcript that includes Spring 2009 courses (both official and unofficial transcripts are acceptable), and a writing sample of no more than 10 pages.  The application form will ask for at least two faculty references and a list of placement preferences.  

Click here to download an application form

All materials must be submitted together by Friday, October 23, 2009 to: 
Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs
Harvard Law School
Austin Hall 102
Cambridge, MA 02138
Fax: 617-496-2636

Additional Information

If you have any questions about the program, please email  You can also view a video of the 2010 Semester in Washington Information Session, which included testimonials by current students in the program, by clicking here (you will need RealPlayer to view the video).

Last modified: September 15, 2011

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