Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I take a clinic?
Although a wide range of valuable experiences are possible across all Moritz offerings, the most intensive training for the actual practice of law is through clinics. All Moritz clinics allow students to put their legal training to practical use, to develop their professional skills, and to work in the public service. Students, with the support of the supervising faculty, assume direct responsibility for their clients or placements. In assuming responsibility for real-world projects, students exercise professional judgment and decision-making responsibility. In the process, students develop a more complex sense of what it means to practice law. In-class time is focused on preparing students’ work for lawyering, and creating opportunities to brainstorm and consider decisions and issues across projects. It all occurs with the benefit of faculty guidance and extensive feedback. Clinics are stimulating, challenging, and fun. Students assessing whether civil, criminal, legislative or transactional careers might best suit them have found the clinics an opportunity to learn firsthand about these options. Students regularly say clinic was their best law school experience.
Are clinics limited to 3Ls only?
The Mediation Clinics (Mediation Clinic and Multiparty Mediation Clinic) and the Legislation Clinic are open to both 2Ls and 3Ls. Enrollment in the Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic and the four litigation clinics (Civil, Criminal Defense, Criminal Prosecution, and Justice for Children) is limited to 3Ls who have obtained a Legal Intern Certificate from the Ohio Supreme Court.
May I take more than one clinic?
Yes, Moritz permits JD candidates to take more than one clinic. However, students may not take more than one clinic during the same semester.
How many hours a week can I expect to commit to a clinic?
Students who have experienced a clinic report that the time required for the clinic is about the same as is needed for any four credit-hour course. Clinic participants should expect to spend six to twelve hours per week on their casework or in the service of their clients, although the specific time commitment may vary from clinic to clinic. Time also may vary from week to week in any given clinic, as is the nature of being a professional with ethical obligations to serve others. The time commitment depends, among other things, on the nature of a student’s assignments or cases and the procedural posture of the cases., In addition, each Moritz clinic meets for four hours of in-class time each week, and students typically will spend some additional time to prepare for -class, often by reading. However, clinics do not involve a final exam.
How will I be graded if I choose to enroll in a clinic?
Moritz clinics are graded on the same scale as all other Moritz JD courses, but with a more flexible curve that reflects the fact that the bases for evaluating student work and performance are unique to the clinics. Typically, clinic faculty evaluate students based on the degrees of professionalism, competence, diligence, effective representation, collaboration and teamwork, engagement, and growth that the students demonstrate during the semester.
What type of mentor-mentee relationships do the clinics provide?
Since all of the clinics involve students meeting with Moritz faculty outside of formal class time, the clinics allow students an opportunity to work more intensively with faculty. Clinical faculty therefore tend to develop closer relationships with students, which can evolve into mentor-mentee relationships after the conclusion of the clinic.
How is case work supervised?
It depends on the clinic. After the clients’ needs and the cases are evaluated, the student teams and the clinic professor decide on the work to be done. Most clinics are structured around close and regular individualized supervision of each student’s work outside of the classroom. In addition, all clinics offer an in-class opportunity to discuss matters related to each student’s casework in a confidential setting.
Do clinics focus on working in a team, or do they focus more on individual work?
Some clinics routinely assign students to work in teams, while others may do so only as appropriate for more complicated cases. In all clinics, however, you will spend time with your faculty and classmates discussing and trouble-shooting your clients and projects. In this sense, collaborative learning is emphasized throughout the clinics.
What skills can I expect to develop while working in a clinic?
Some variation exists across clinics. For instance:
Students in the Justice for Children Clinic conduct client interviews, draft court documents (including motions, memoranda, draft orders, affidavits, etc.), perform legal research, argue in court, and communicate with other case participants. In addition to these important legal skills, students are exposed to the professional practice of law, case management and planning, and reflective lawyering.
Students in the Prosecution Clinic will learn how to evaluate a case, engage in plea negotiations and learn fundamental trial skills. They will also learn to utilize the rules of evidence in real jury trial situations.
Students in the Criminal Defense Clinic will learn how to evaluate a case from the defense perspective. The same skills that the Prosecution Clinic requires will be applied to protect the rights of the accused.
Students in the Mediation Clinic and Multiparty Mediation Clinic will develop strong active listening and analytical organization skills, which will be useful for client counseling should they choose to take additional clinics or in negotiation and representation work throughout their legal careers. Because supervising faculty specifically counsel students not to engage in the practice of law in these Mediation Clinics, students learn to problem solve by helping people identify and act upon underlying interests and concerns, a key skill in helping people resolve many types of disputes, legal, professional, and interpersonal.
Students in the Civil Clinic learn client communication skills (including interviewing and counseling); conduct legal research and draft court documents (including motions, memorandums, complaints) and in so doing enhance their legal reasoning skills; develop legal strategy and negotiation skills; work in collaborative settings to problem-solve; and appear in court. Throughout the course, there is an emphasis on thinking about the role of law and lawyer in society, critical self-reflection, storytelling, and cross-cultural lawyering.
Legislation Clinic students work at offices in and around the Ohio Statehouse, directly advising and assisting their supervisors. Students may cover committees, analyze pending legislation, survey other states’ approaches to issues, summarize federal and state court opinions, and help prepare committee testimony. Students develop and hone their skills in research, writing, and communicating with a variety of leaders both orally and in written form. They also receive extensive practice in core professionalism skills such as confidentiality, timeliness, loyalty, and dependability.
What is the final work product expected from a student enrolled in a clinic?
The clinics do not require exams, but many of the clinics require a memo at the end of the semester memorializing the student’s work, and teeing it up for the next team of students to carry on.
Who are the clients and how much client interaction can I expect from a clinic?
This too varies by clinic:
The Justice for Children Clinic represents children in the juvenile court system. While the great majority of clients are over 14 years old, this clinic also frequently has some younger clients. The clinic represents children charged with a crime, children who are involved with the child welfare system, and undocumented children. It also handles a small number of education matters. Students in this clinic have extensive contact with their clients and appear in court an average of 5 times per semester.
The Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic provides the legal work initially needed by startup companies and early-stage businesses. The clients include students, inventors, local serial entrepreneurs, engineers, ex-corporate types, and retired businesspeople, who each have an innovation or new business model that they believe can be scaled up and can attract entrepreneurial investment. Expect a lot of client interaction, or as much as you decide is necessary to accomplish your client’s objectives.
Legislation Clinic students are not in a direct attorney-client relationship with their supervisors. However, students have contact with legislators and their staff, as well as other leaders, interest group representatives, constituents, and other agency personnel.
The Prosecution Clinic does not have clients but does have victims and witnesses that must be interviewed.
The Criminal Defense Clinic meets clients at the out arraignment court and selects from those eligible for the services of the public defender. Client contact can be extensive depending on the complexity of the case.
Students in the Mediation Clinics conduct mediation sessions at the Franklin County Municipal Court throughout the semester, after receiving an intensive mediation skills training the first or second weekend of the semester. For the Mediation Clinic, students conduct 6 mediations downtown and write a seminar paper examining a mediation or ADR-related topic. The Mediation Clinic seminar paper counts both as an upper level writing requirement and as the writing requirement for the Certificate in Dispute Resolution. For the Multiparty Mediation Clinic, students conduct 3 mediations downtown and participate in a group project examining ways to intervene in a multiparty dispute. Students in the Multiparty Mediation Clinic are well positioned to transition to the Dispute Systems Design Workshop, which is a clinic-like offering through the Program on Dispute Resolution. In the Workshop, students work with external clients, like the airlines industry, to help develop ADR interventions and methods specific to those clients.
In the Civil Clinic, the human dimensions of lawyering—including, centrally, client communication—are central. The clinic provides students as many opportunities as possible to interact with, and ground their lawyering in, their clients. The clinic focuses on representing underserved communities and individuals who cannot afford legal representation. It takes on individual representation and community lawyering projects, so students have an opportunity to interact with individual and group clients. Because the practice is wide-ranging, from civil rights to landlord-tenant disputes, clinic clients are diverse.
How do the clinics choose cases and clientele?
The Justice for Children Clinic takes court appointments and referrals from community agencies.
Clients for the Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic are selected based on the preparedness of the founders to proceed with their business plans, on the relative complexity or simplicity of their innovation or business model, and on whether the client has legal needs that the clinic can provide. The EBLC does not handle non-profits, tax matters or disputed matters.
The Prosecution Clinic instructor is appointed Special Prosecutor and chooses cases that have educational value.
In the Legislation Clinic, placements at the Ohio Statehouse result from close consultation among students and faculty, based on student interest, availability of positions at the Statehouse, and the overall fit of the student for a particular placement in a Statehouse office. Sometimes placements are available in the Executive Branch as well, through a similar process.
In the Mediation Clinics, our parties are chosen by the Small Claims Court and the City Prosecutor’s Office, where we mediate. These venues provide a range of issues, from civil to criminal. For the Multiparty Mediation Clinic group project, the instructors work to identify multiparty disputes and lay the groundwork for student teams to conduct assessments and provide intervention frameworks.
The Civil Clinic takes on clients through a variety of mechanisms, from walk-ins to referrals to our own outreach. We focus on representing underserved communities and individuals who cannot afford legal representation. In selecting projects, cases, and clients, we consider a broad range of factors, with strong emphasis on what students will learn in working on that particular matter.
Do I have any choice in the areas in which I get placed and the types of assignments I will receive within my clinic?
In both Criminal Clinics, cases are assigned on a random basis except that students who have personal difficulty with a particular crime can opt out of that case. Students are given three cases for each criminal clinic.
Students in the Justice for Children Clinic are generally assigned at least one delinquency matter. Students may preference other types of case and project assignments.
Students in the Mediation Clinics will indicate their scheduling availability and will be assigned mediation slots based on that availability. We ask that students have an afternoon (Monday-Thursday) and an evening (Tuesday-Thursday) free each week so that they can maximize their chances of being able to mediate in both Small Claims Court and the Prosecutor’s Office.
Students in the Civil Clinic are provided an opportunity in the first two weeks of class to express a preference in the type of project to which they would like to be assigned. Although the clinic cannot guarantee a match, it makes every effort to assign students to projects that are aligned with their professional development goals.
The Legislation Clinic faculty will consult with students about their goals for the Clinic, issues of interest, and partisan leanings and background. The faculty, in consultation with the offices downtown, will then place participants in an office that they think is best suited to the student’s goals and interests. The clinic also has placements that are not partisan, so students who want to learn about the legislative process without being affiliated with a particular party can also participate in the Legislation Clinic.
Will I get to be in court?
Students have the opportunity to go to court in some clinics. For instance, students in the Justice for Children Clinic average five court appearances per semester. Students in the Civil Clinic may or may not appear in court depending on the posture and nature of the matter to which they are assigned.
Students in the Prosecution and Criminal Defense Clinics are in court on a regular basis.
The Legislation Clinic provides placements in the General Assembly and some Executive Branch offices, rather than having students engage in judicial processes.
Are there opportunities for complex litigation?
Yes, the Civil Clinic is involved in number of complex litigation matters. The majority of these are civil rights cases, broadly construed, in federal court. These complex litigation matters currently include an Eighth Amendment Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit on behalf of a woman incarcerated in Ohio’s prisons against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections; a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Patrol; and a Fair Labor Standards Act and Title VII lawsuit against a local employer.
Are there prerequisites for the clinics?
Each clinic has its own set of requirements. A basic set of guidelines, including the requirement that students in any of the litigation clinics or the Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic obtain a Legal Intern Certificate from the Ohio Supreme Court, is included below, but students should check for prerequisites for a particular clinic as they would for any course.
Civil Clinic: 3L, Legal Intern Certificate, 603 Evidence preferred
Criminal Defense Clinic: 3L, Legal Intern Certificate, 603 Evidence
Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic: 3L, Legal Intern Certificate; Contracts and Business Associations
Justice for Children Clinic: 3L, Legal Intern Certificate, 603 Evidence preferred
Legislation Clinic: 2L or 3L
Mediation Clinics: 2L or 3L
Prosecution Clinic: 3L, Legal Intern Certificate, 603 Evidence
What are the prerequisites for a Legal Intern Certificate?
Students must complete two-thirds of their legal education (58 hours) prior to submission of an application for a Legal Intern Certificate. Forms and instructions are available on the Supreme Court of Ohio website, or students can request a copy in the clinic office (255 Drinko). There is a cost associated with the Legal Intern Certificate. Students must bring a money order or cashier’s check for $25, made out to the Supreme Court of Ohio. The court will not accept personal checks or cash.
Staff is available in the clinic office to assist with filling out the forms, having them notarized, and getting them sent to the Ohio Supreme Court. Also available in the clinics office are forms for supervising attorneys.
Beyond the prerequisites to enrollment in each clinic, is there any additional training I have to go through before working in a clinic?
Nothing is required before enrolling. Each clinic then has its own method of providing training or orientation at the beginning of the semester. For instance, students in the Mediation Clinics will participate in an intensive skills training weekend at the beginning of the semester.
May I work or pursue an externship while also taking a clinic?
Many Moritz clinic students also work part-time or complete externships during the same semester they are enrolled in a clinic. There are just two issues to explore before doing this.
First, students should make sure they will have enough time to complete all of the work satisfactorily. Employers, clients, and classmates depend upon a student’s performance in clinics, externships, and part-time jobs.
Second, students should be sure they don’t create conflicts of interest by combining experiences. Students, for example, may not do criminal defense work while enrolled in the prosecution clinic. Conversely, they may not work for any prosecutor while taking part in the criminal defense clinic. It is generally appropriate to pursue these activities in separate semesters, but not at the same time. Before finalizing plans, students should check with their clinic professor about conflicts of interest.
If I do work or pursue an externship, what sort of prior, current, or future work or outside activities creates a conflict of interest?
It would depend on the clinic and the client. In clinics that do litigation, work on the same case or controversy for an adverse party would create a conflict. In the Legislation Clinic, working on legislation that could affect the outcome of a case in a court where you are clerking could create a conflict of interest. In the Mediation Clinics, you would have a conflict if a firm where you work or are an intern is representing one of the parties in your mediation.
In each and every case in which you might have grounds to be concerned, review the relevant ethical rules and consult with the clinic professor in advance.
Don’t clinics just duplicate the experience of the trial practice classes?
No. The real-world – and often unpredictable – experience in the clinics is not matched by the trial practice courses. In clinic, students work with real clients and on real projects with real world consequences: this transforms the quality of the experience altogether. In addition, several of the clinics (Mediation Clinic, Legislation Clinic, and Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic) do not engage in any litigation work. Students interested in trial work should take Trial Practice, as well as other simulations related to their interests, such as Pretrial Practice, ion addition to a live-client clinic. Clinic students who take the simulation classes before or concurrently with enrollment in a clinic may be able to take on extra responsibility for the clinical cases.
How do I find out more about the clinics that interest me?
Watch for information sessions, speak to participating students, and seek out clinic faculty in those courses of interest to you.