About Our Clinic
LSIC is one of the largest and most successful legal service providers in the District of Columbia. Each year students from the 5 participating schools, (Georgetown, Catholic, George Washington, Howard, and American University) make about 1,000 court appearances and provide critical legal assistance to nearly 5,000 low-income residents. LSIC works to fight the consequences of poverty, to prevent homelessness and to alleviate inequalities in the justice system.
Most of LSIC's civil litigation cases involve representing tenants in the Landlord and Tenant Branch and plaintiffs or defendants in the Small Claims Branch of the D.C. Superior Court. Landlord and tenant/housing cases are complex, with many intricate twists and turns. Issues involve mainly property and contract law, but can intersect with receiverships, torts, administrative law, guardianship and probate and bankruptcy. For many tenants, LSIC students are often the only source of legal information and assistance. Representation in small claims cases usually involves consumer issues. LSIC also handles a small number of regular Civil Division cases.
Our program emphasizes "real world" litigation practice. LSIC offers a learning environment in which students benefit from a one-on-one working relationship with a supervisor who is an experienced trial attorney. Supervision and the clinic seminar classes are geared toward litigation and the skills necessary for effective lawyering. Both the class and supervision components of the program are also designed to promote reflection on what the role of the lawyer can and should be.
LSIC is a two-semester clinic in which students earn a total of ten credits (5 credits each semester). Students are responsible for all aspects of their cases, including initial interviews, investigation, research, preparation of pleadings, motion practice, and trial preparation. Students gain a basic working knowledge of substantive law, court rules and procedures, as well as important advocacy skills.
While weekly clinic seminar classes take place at Georgetown, LSIC is an off-campus clinic with special time requirements. Typically, participants commit an average of twenty hours per week to clinic work - this includes court days, court appearances, class time, and preparation for class, case work and meeting with supervisors and clients. Some weeks may not require that many hours while others may require more. On their court days, students interview potential clients, generally tenants facing eviction, and if the case is not one in which representation will occur for one reason or another, students will negotiate with opposing parties, most of whom are represented. Students often appear in a limited capacity before the judge.
In addition to their court days, students may be in the LSIC office, (located in Chinatown), two or three days each semester interviewing potential clients who walk in or call in for legal assistance. Client intake at the LSIC office offers Georgetown students the opportunity to improve their interviewing skills and to interact with students from the other participating law schools.
"I have been enormously impressed with the dedication, diligence, and ability demonstrated by those students who represent clients or assist the Court in conciliation. Without . . .your program. . .I am certain that clients would have gone unrepresented and justice would have suffered.
— D.C. Superior Court Judge
There is an intensive orientation before fall classes begin to cover the basics of what students need to know to begin work in the clinic. Orientation covers substantive and procedural law, interviewing and counseling, negotiations and conciliation, and motions and trial practice. There is required summer reading.
Evening students with flexibility in their day schedules have participated in the clinic during the academic year. However, a one-semester option, specially geared toward evening students, is available in the summer session.
Overall, LSIC will enhance what you have already learned about procedure, substantive areas of law, evidence and professional responsibility. You will receive extensive training in negotiations, interviewing and counseling, alternate dispute resolution and developing attorney-client relationships. Moreover, regardless of whether you want to be a trial lawyer, you will benefit from LSIC. Once you have handled a case in court or prepared for trial, you will never look at a legal matter the same way again. Because a lawyer's job often is to keep client's out of court, the insight you gain from your clinical experience will make you a better lawyer whether or not there is a courtroom in your future legal career.