The IPR Experience

The Institute for Public Representation (IPR) is a public interest law firm and student clinic founded in 1971.  Students at IPR work on projects in one or more of the clinic's three major areas:  1) First Amendment and media law, 2) environmental law, and 3) civil rights/general public interest law.  IPR offers a high level of professional training and a variety of advocacy opportunities such as preparing comments and petitions for rulemaking to be filed with administrative agencies; drafting briefs and pleadings for use in court or in administrative agency proceedings; taking discovery; drafting testimony and comments on proposed legislation and proposed agency rules; participating in strategy sessions; and meeting with clients, other attorneys, and government personnel.

Students benefit from regular participation in the process of decision making and the careful preparation of legal documents, under the day-to-day, hands-on supervision of the IPR faculty and staff attorneys.  Students interested in a public interest law career can obtain first-hand familiarity with the public interest law community and the kinds of clients, both individual and organizational, served by public interest lawyers.  Students considering other careers will also profit from the insights the clinic provides into the litigation and administrative processes and from exposure to complex law practice involving real cases and real clients.  IPR students obtain a greater understanding of their roles as attorneys and the responsibility of lawyers in our society through their work on projects, as well as through participation in, and preparation for, weekly seminars and small group meetings.

In applying to the clinic, students indicate the areas in which they would like to work.  Students accepted will be assigned to work within a particular area.  The projects offered in each area depend on client need and other factors.  The following list of projects recently undertaken by IPR illustrates the types of cases students may work on.         

Communications and Technology Law Projects

  • filing comments on behalf of privacy and children's advocacy organizations supporting proposed changes to the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) rules implementing the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act:
  • representing a campaign reform organization in comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arguing that requiring broadcast television stations to report to the public the amount of news and election related programming they air does not violate the First Amendment;
  • filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court urging it to narrowly affirm the lower court's ruling that the FCC's policy against the broadcast of fleeting expletives is unconstitutional;
  • working with organizations representing deaf and hard of hearing individuals to expand and improve closed captioning on television;
  • petitioning the Copyright Office for exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act;
  • participating in the FCC's periodic review of broadcast ownership rules to ensure that the rules promote competition, diversity and opportunities for women and minorities to own broadcast stations;
  • filing a complaint with the FTC alleging that a children's website is engaged in deceptive and unfair practices.

Environmental Projects

  • filing an amicus brief regarding proposed changes to the management system for the New England groundfish fishery;
  • assisting an Indian tribe in its opposition to the siting of a wind farm off of Cape Cod;
  • representing local environmental groups in their efforts to get a contaminated site on the Anacostia River cleaned up;
  • pursuing attorneys fees in three cases;
  • litigating the merits of the District of Columbia's refusal to release documents pertaining to the proposed development of a historically significant open space;
  • filing comments on behalf of a consortium of indigenous and environmental groups on an Arizona coal mine permit renewal application; and
  • filing comments on proposed regulations of nitric acid plants.

Civil Rights/General Public Interest Law Projects

  • litigating a complex federal Freedom of Information Act suit against the Department of Defense and the CIA on behalf of researchers seeking records on "enhanced interrogation" used in the War on Terror;
  • litigating a case in the U.S. Supreme Court involving whether federal employees can bring equitable constitutional claims in district court;
  • litigating individual race and gender Title VII discrimination claims against a large federal agency on behalf of workers who were denied promotions;
  • litigating a Title VII religious accommodation suit against a large corporation on behalf of an employee who was terminated;
  • litigating a federal Freedom of Information Act suit against the Office of Personnel Management involving records related to Selective Service registration;
  • litigating a challenge to the constitutionality of a Virginia statute that bars non-Virginians from obtaining government records available to Virginians;
  • litigating a federal Freedom of Information Act suit challenging the Bureau of Prison's policy prohibiting a prisoner access to recordings of the prisoner's conversations with his or her own lawyer; and
  • litigating a suits challenging a state law that prohibits migrant legal services programs from gaining access to government records essential to the protection of migrant workers' employment rights.   

Time Commitment    

The work undertaken by students at IPR affects the lives of our clients and seeks to improve the laws that affect under-represented people and groups.  Moreover, students completing the required work at IPR receive twelve credits.  To represent clients zealously and meet academic requirements, students enrolled in IPR must make a serious, ongoing commitment of time to their clinical work.

IPR expects that students will spend at least 32 hours each week during normal business hours (8:00-6:00), working at the law school (preferably in the IPR office space) or attending meetings, hearings or other activities related to clinic cases or projects.  IPR also conducts weekly two-hour seminars and holds project case rounds, which average between one and two hours per week.  Accordingly, separate from, and in addition to, time spent on projects, we expect students to devote the time necessary to prepare for and attend seminars and rounds, which we estimate will take an additional 5 to 7 hours a week.  Preparation for seminars and rounds does not need to take place in our offices or at the Law Center.  Students are also responsible for important administrative tasks, such as maintaining time records for their projects and establishing and maintaining case files.  

Prerequisites

Students who want to work on environmental projects are encouraged but not required to take a course in environmental or natural resources law, either before they enroll in IPR or while they are in the clinic.  This is not to discourage students without any background in environmental or natural resources law from applying to IPR to work on environmental projects, but only to say that having some substantive understanding of the field will make work on some projects easier.