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About Our Clinic

Students in the Federal Legislation Clinic learn legislative lawyering skills through practice for clients, classroom discussion, and intensive exercises. The Professor and two Teaching Fellows provide individualized supervision, training, feedback, and evaluation.

1. LEGISLATIVE LAWYERING: FIELDWORK FOR CLINIC CLIENTS (avg. 15-45 hours/week)

Throughout the term, most of the students' learning occurs by doing legislative lawyering work on behalf of their clients.Client organizations and issues are chosen for their capacity to offer Clinic students the best opportunity to get actively involved, on behalf of the clients, in the federal legislative and administrative processes. Current and recent client organizations are the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the Women's Refugee Commission, the National Women's Law Center, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

The students take the lead, with the primary responsibility for advising and assisting the clients. During the term, students are primarily responsible for:

  • Conducting the Clinic's relationship with the client;
  • Developing projects and establishing deadlines in consultation with the client;
  • Developing and executing project plans;
  • Doing the research, analysis, writing, and presenting that goes into projects;
  • Advising the client;
  • As circumstances warrant, representing the client –including potentially negotiating on behalf of the client –with third parties on Capitol Hill or elsewhere; and
  • Practicing reflective lawyering by considering their ethical obligations and professional development responsibilities.

Clinic fieldwork often includes attending coalition meetings, working group meetings, Congressional hearings, and briefings.

2. CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION AND DISCUSSION (avg. 5-12 hours/week)

The Clinic meets up to three times per week for seminar sessions.During the first half of the semester, the in-class portion of the Clinic will include discussions focused on learning the organization and operation of the federal legislative and executive branches;how law, process, policy, politics, and personalities (the "LP4 factors") shape their decision-making;and how to advocate successfully to and within these branches.Some sessions will include visits from special guests or skill-building exercises.Preparation for class and active participation in class are expected.

To enrich the classroom experience, and provide a variety of perspectives and insights on legislative lawyering, the Clinic provides several important opportunities for students to observe and engage firsthand with expert practitioners and key institutions:

Distinguished Guests.On occasion, the Clinic will be visited by distinguished guests from practice who will offer their reflections on the qualities that distinguish successful lawyers in legislative and administrative practice.These off-the-record sessions, in the Clinic's collegial, conversation-based seminar environment, represent a remarkable learning opportunity.

Field Trips.The Clinic may visit key institutions and individuals, in the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch departments and agencies.

3. WRITTEN &ORAL EXERCISES (hours vary considerably)

This Clinic combines its practice and classroom work with an intensive series of exercises that build essential legislative lawyering skills.Through these experiential activities and simulations, students learn by practicing (and reflecting on) the day-to-day activities of legislative lawyers.

Many of the Clinic's exercises focus on aspects of practice before Congress and the Executive Branch that are different from litigation and other forms of practice.While students may perform some traditional legal research related to legislative history or judicial interpretation, our work focuses on navigating Capitol Hill and the "dance of legislation." Our students learn to write and speak concisely and precisely.They work with non-lawyers and lawyers, in Congressional offices and in taxi cabs, through formal procedures and hallway conversations. They learn to form relationships and shape laws.

The Clinic's exercises also emphasize self-reflective lawyering and practicing with integrity despite serious time constraints and other pressures.

The Clinic's three central exercises are:

Clinic Daily Brief (CDB) –Twice during the semester, each Clinic student (paired with another) is responsible for providing the Professor, Fellows, and any special guests with a concise and precise written and oral briefing on new developments in Congress and the Executive Branch. Students receive feedback on all aspects of their performance.

Pitch Meeting –Once each term, every student practices advocating on behalf of a legislative, regulatory, or other policy proposal to decision-makers in Congress or the Executive Branch.The roles of key officials are played by current and former Congressional staffers and others. Each student also prepares an appropriate hand-out for the meeting. The Pitch Meetings are videotaped and reviewed by the Clinic supervisors as part of an extensive feedback process for each student.

Committee Markup Simulation –In the Clinic's two-week legislative simulation exercise, students role-play U.S. Senators charged with drafting and considering legislation to address a pressing national problem.The exercise gives students a chance to experience the complexity of formal and informal Congressional process at the committee level, including during two intense days of markup of a student-written bill. (A markup is a committee meeting at which a draft bill is debated and amended before being sent to the floor.)The simulation is open-universe, with most real world facts and law applying.Meanwhile, all usual Clinic activities continue, including practice for clients, giving students the experience of having to balance competing responsibilities in legislative practice.Extensive feedback is provided after the exercise.

4. INDIVIDUALIZED SUPERVISION &FEEDBACK (approximately 1-2 hours/week)

All students meet weekly with their supervisor(s) for 30-60 minutes.These meetings include time for project planning, updates on fieldwork, revising written materials, reflection, and other questions or issues that arise during the semester. Some of the most intensive individualized student-supervisor contact in the Clinic occurs in relation to a student's research, analysis, and drafting of one or more legislative lawyering documents, and the related presentations and advice to the client.

 

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