About Our Clinic
In the FLAC, student lawyers experientially learn and practice the skills necessary to become effective legislative lawyers in the Article I (Congress) and II (Executive) branches of the federal government through practice for clients, classroom discussion, and intensive exercises. Student lawyers are in the lead, with primary responsibility for advising and representing the client. The Professor and Fellows provide individualized supervision, training, feedback, evaluation, and grading.
1. FEDERAL ARTICLE I & II PRACTICE: LEGISLATIVE LAWYERING FIELD WORK FOR CLINIC CLIENTS (avg. 20 hours/week)
Throughout the term, most learning will occur by doing legislative lawyering work for the client. During term, student lawyers are primarily responsible for:
• Conducting the Clinic’s relationship with the client;
• Developing projects (work for the client) 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 in Art. I and II practice environments;
• Practicing reflective lawyering, by considering ethical obligations and professional development responsibilities.
Clinic fieldwork may also include attending coalition meetings, working group meetings, congressional hearings, and briefings.
2. CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION AND DISCUSSION (avg. 2-6 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, political, and personality (LP4) factors shape their decisionmaking; and how to advocate successfully to and within the Art. I and Art. II branches. Some sessions may include visits from special guests or skill building exercises.
Understanding intellectually how the LP4 factors come together to shape decision making by Congress and the Executive Branch is not enough, however. An able legislative lawyer also develops a tactile sense for these contextual factors and institutions, and with that benefit reflects frequently and deeply about the work and responsibilities of the Art. I and II lawyer. Accordingly, the FLAC provides several important opportunities for students to observe and engage firsthand with expert practitioners and key institutions.
• Distinguished Guests. Throughout the term, the FLAC will be visited by distinguished guests from practice who will share their thoughts on the substantive projects on which the FLAC is working and offer their reflections on the qualities that distinguish successful lawyers in Art. I and II practice. Because legislative lawyers – to a far greater extent than most litigator-lawyers – work with and often for senior leaders who are not lawyers, some of the Clinic’s distinguished guests will be non-lawyers who work or have done important work with Congress or the Executive Branch. These off-the-record sessions, in the FLAC’s collegial conversation-based seminar environment, represent a remarkable learning opportunity. Guests have included Senators, the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Legislative Affairs, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, the former Director of National Intelligence, the former CIA General Counsel, federal judges, top lobbyists, and retired four-star military officers.
• Field Trips. The FLAC may visit key institutions and individuals, such as congressional committees, Executive Branch agencies, and senior leaders.
• Congressional Committee Meeting or Floor Watching. At least once per term, each student lawyer is required to attend a congressional committee hearing, markup, or other kind of formal meeting, or watch the Senate or House floor in session (30 minutes if the student watches in person from the gallery, or 90 minutes straight if the student watches on C-SPAN). Attending a committee meeting in connection with a FLAC field trip or in connection with a project satisfies this requirement.
3. WRITTEN & ORAL EXERCISES (range from 5-25 hours/week)
Some law school clinics focus exclusively on practice by student lawyers (what we term legislative lawyering field work). Practicums often have classroom components structured around externships. Some experiential learning-focused classes utilize simulations. The FLAC combines its practice and classroom work with an intensive series of experiential learning exercises that build lawyering skills and a tactile sense for practice. Whereas by the Clinic’s practice component students learn by doing real legislative lawyering, through exercises students learn by doing the activities that will distinguish them on day one in positions inside or advocating to the Art. I and II branches. Even within the brief scope of the term, student lawyers will note that skills honed through exercises benefit their client work.
Many of the Clinic’s exercises focus on aspects of serving Art. I and II practice different from Art. III practice. As noted on the Clinic’s main website page, lawyers in and advocating to the Art. I and II branches must be as comfortable with non-lawyer principals and informal practice environments as they are with lawyer supervisors and formal proceedings. They must provide written and oral briefings and advocacy under timelines far shorter than a typical court filing deadline or oral argument. And, they must think through what the law could or should be, not just what it is or was at the time a case or controversy arose.
Note that skills honed in FLAC exercises are transferrable to other practice environments. Clinic exercises train student lawyers to write and speak both precisely and concisely. (Being precise or concise is comparatively easy; it is being both at once that is hard – and is a quality that distinguishes the best lawyers in any setting). The Clinic trains lawyers to analyze fully the LP4 aspects of their client’s or principal’s options, preferences, and obligations. The FLAC’s exercises also emphasize self-reflective lawyering, and practicing with integrity despite serious pressures of time, personality, and consequence.
Students will receive extensive feedback on exercises, including both numerical scores and written evaluations. Students are also encouraged to discuss their performance with their Clinic supervisors.
The Clinic’s primary exercises are:
• Clinic Daily Brief (CDB) – Three times each week, two Clinic student lawyers are responsible for providing the Professor, Fellows, and any special guests a concise and precise written and oral briefing on current activities in Congress and the Executive Branch, and recent developments. The CDB is often delivered under Washington field conditions.
• Legislative Simulation – Over the course of three weeks, students do all the research, legislative drafting, written and oral advocacy, politicking, negotiation, and use of congressional committee procedural rules done by Members and staff in advance of and during a committee markup. 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 all real world facts and law applying unless otherwise stipulated, supplemented by media and political injects generated by the Clinic leadership. Meanwhile, all usual Clinic activities continue, including practice for clients, giving student lawyers the experience of having to balance competing responsibilities in legislative practice.
• Colleague Meeting – Once each term, every student practices organizing and leading a meeting among colleagues at which a potential legislative, regulatory, or other policy proposal is discussed.
• Pitch Meeting – Once each term, every student practices advocating on behalf of a legislative, regulatory, or other policy proposal to decisionmakers in Congress or the Executive Branch. The roles of key officials in the Art. I and II branches are played by current and former lawyers and staffers.
4. INDIVIDUALIZED SUPERVISION & FEEDBACK (approximately 1-2 hours/week)
Each student meets weekly with their supervisor(s) for 30-60 minutes. 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 their related presentations and advice to the client. Student lawyers must prepare project plans, and be ready for dozens of questions and multiple drafts.