About Our Clinic

Program Description

Each year Law Students in Court (LSIC) students and staff make hundreds of appearances in court. Students represent their clients in the D.C. Superior Court Civil Division, primarily in the Landlord and Tenant and Small Claims Branches. Some cases each year are in the Court's regular Civil Division and some that start out in Landlord and Tenant or Small Claims courts require an administrative hearing, usually before the D.C. Housing Authority or the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings.

LSIC works to fight the consequences of poverty, to prevent homelessness and to alleviate inequalities in the justice system. In a city where safe and sanitary housing for low and moderate income people is scarce, clinic students and staff provide a voice for the disadvantaged for both program clients and the many other people helped less formally each year. LSIC students presence at Landlord and Tenant court serves as a vital check in a court where pro se tenants are often taken advantage of by landlords and their experienced attorneys.

As part of the clinic experience, students spend one day each week interviewing, counseling and assisting potential clients in the D.C. Landlord and Tenant Court. If appropriate for representation, a case is continued for responsive pleadings. The student then schedules a longer, more extensive interview with the potential client, does necessary fact investigation, and submits a case acceptance memo to the supervisor team so a decision can be made whether the person will become a retained client. Once a person is accepted as a client, the student is responsible for all aspects of the case: initial pleadings, discovery, motions preparation and argument, and either negotiating a settlement or preparing the case for a bench or jury trial. Case work is guided and supervised by clinic supervising attorneys at each step in the process.

The program offers a learning environment that focuses on case planning and preparation, courtroom experience and one-on-one working relationships with experienced instructors. Supervision and instruction emphasize litigation strategy and the skills necessary for effective lawyering. Class work and supervision promote reflection on what a lawyer's role should and can be.

The D.C. Law Students in Court Program (LSIC) is one of the oldest and most highly regarded clinical programs in the city. It began as an effort by five District law schools in conjunction with the Bench and the Bar to address the disparity in legal representation and assistance in two of the city's highest volume courts. Students selected for the program will work alongside students selected from American, Catholic, George Washington and Howard law schools to represent indigent clients in the District of Columbia.

"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

LSIC is a one-semester or two-semester program. The fall term begins with a mandatory, five day orientation before law school classes begin. If this orientation schedule overlaps with Early Interview Week, students will be allowed to attend scheduled interviews during orientation as needed. Classes during orientation initially focus on developing skills needed when a student makes his or her first court appearance and begins to take on clients.

Our students spend one day each week in court. The student chooses the day, and it is the same day every week.Most hearings and court appearances will be scheduled for the chosen day of the week.Students must have one day available free of daytime class and other work obligations in order to participate. The choice of day is up to the student, but we ask that you not choose Monday as your court day.

As with most clinics, it is impossible to control fully the amount of work each student has in each week. In most weeks, students are able to meet their responsibilities for their clients and for the clinic in about 25 hours.Some weeks, however, will require additional time to prepare motions, investigate cases, meet with witnesses, prepare for trial, and make court appearances. Students are expected to devote sufficient time to the clinic to advocate zealously on behalf of their clients.We estimate that over the course of the semester, excluding orientation, time required for clinic will average out to 20 hours per week.

Students remain primarily responsible for their cases during exam periods and breaks; however, supervisors are available to cover emergency court proceedings that cannot be continued. Students will be expected to cover their cases at the end of the academic year until they have completed a close-out meeting with a supervising attorney and the staff is satisfied that the student files are prepared to be passed on to another student.

Many students work while attending law school and also participate in clinics successfully; however, students should have somewhat flexible work schedules because mandatory court appearances may require adjusting work hours.

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