Below is a collection of questions commonly asked by clinical students that may be helpful to you as you begin your work at LSC. Click on each question to view its answer.
Clinic students at LSC have their own cases and meaningful responsibility in those cases; they are not glorified interns or mere helpers. Although your supervisors will provide comprehensive training, raise issues for you to consider in your cases, and, at times, offer suggestions, you will have the opportunity and responsibility to propose and make strategic and tactical decisions and then to execute those decisions under our guidance. This means that you will interview and counsel your own clients, conduct fact investigations and discovery, identify legal research issues, engage in negotiation, and represent clients in hearings and trials. In short, you will do all of the things a practicing lawyer does—within the supportive environment of a public interest law firm dedicated to clinical teaching. We are committed to being accessible, providing thoughtful supervision, and mentoring students.
Depending on the size and complexity of a case, students may work in teams or individually. In some instances, students may also have the opportunity to collaborate with students in other LSC clinics. It is not uncommon for a client of LSC to have multiple and intersecting legal problems that cross practice areas.
Students are authorized to represent clients in state courts and agencies under Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:03. Students are authorized to appear in federal court under a parallel provision in the applicable rules.
Even though our building (at the crossroads of the Jamaica Plain and Roxbury neighborhoods in the City of Boston), like all Harvard buildings, has been closed since mid-March 2020 to most staff and to students and to the public, our clinics are still fully operational. During this time, our attorneys, clinical law students, and summer interns have continued to take on cases and advocate for clients. Indeed, our advocacy is in especially great demand because of the disproportionate health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the low-income communities we serve.
Students are using various technologies (phone, email, Zoom, etc.) to stay connected to clients and represented clients in state and federal court and agency hearings by telephone or videoconference. Clinical students have also contributed to policy work that sought to ensure governmental responses to COVID-19 meaningfully addressed questions of access and equity. Students and supervisors have demonstrated great creativity and commitment in working to meet the needs of LSC’s clients.
To get a snap shot about some of the work our students and attorneys have been doing during this time, please visit the LSC blog.
Many students have reported that they found their clinical work particularly meaningful because it afforded them an opportunity to work with vulnerable people and to engage directly in the hard work of responding to COVID-19’s community impact. And while Zoom is not a perfect substitute for in-person interactions, Zoom seems to lend itself better to smaller group discussions such as clinical supervision and clinical seminars.
Pursuant to HLS policy, all classroom-based clinical seminars will be conducted remotely via Zoom. In addition, it is assumed that all legal work in the clinic will be conducted remotely. It may be there are narrow exceptions that permit some voluntary in-person legal advocacy where no alternative exists that would uphold ethical commitments to the client and the in-person advocacy can be conducted in a manner consistent with personal and public health requirements. We will provide further information about official policies as it becomes available.
Note: We have revised these FAQs to reflect the current remote learning and lawyering environment. In doing so, we have also removed from these FAQs those topics that are not germane to our current operations. We will update these FAQs as any circumstances change.
[Effective August 2020]
LSC is located in the City of Boston, at the crossroads of the Jamaica Plain and Roxbury neighborhoods. Our address is 122 Boylston St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. See our Contact & Directions page for a map.
Our normal business hours are 9 am – 6 pm EST, Monday through Friday. LSC will continue to operate remotely during the Spring 2021 semester.
The answer depends on the clinical work schedule you choose (see the next two questions below in these FAQs). By coordinating with your clinical supervisor, you should agree on a time you will meet your supervisor over Zoom on your first day of clinical work. Your first day of clinical work is whatever day you identified in the work schedule you submit to us prior to the start of the semester. (Note: This means that even in a semester that begins on a Tuesday–such as the fall semester where Labor Day (a Monday) is an instructional holiday and where your clinical seminar (held on Mondays) will not initially meet until the second week of the semester–you will still commence your LSC clinical hours the first week of the semester.)
On your first day of clinical work, if not earlier, your clinical supervisor will provide you with an orientation to LSC’s work space and law practice protocols. In addition, LSC hosts an orientation on the first Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the semester. These orientation sessions, which run from 12 pm – 1 pm EST, provide students with an opportunity to meet peers from their own clinic and other LSC-based clinics and to hear presentations from LSC staff about our program, our mission, and our values as a site for clinical teaching and public service. You need attend only one of the sessions; it is the same material covered on each of the days. Sign-up information for the orientation sessions will be distributed before the start of the semester.
Students can sign up for 3, 4, or 5 clinical credits. Each clinical credit presumes 4 hours per week of work.
|Clinical Credits||Hours Per Week|
You can adjust—up or down—the number of clinical credits for which you are enrolled after the start of the semester. This allows you to get a sense of the work flow of your clinic before making your final decision about the extent of your time commitment to the clinic. Please note there is a deadline during the semester for adjusting your clinical credits. Please consult the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) website for more information about the deadline for adjusting clinical credits during the semester.
As you can imagine, when you work on real cases for real clients, one cannot guarantee that case assignments will perfectly match up with the hours per week chart set forth above. Cases sometimes require intense work during one week—for example, as you prepare for a hearing or draft an important document—and then far less work during another week. Cases and litigation have a natural, albeit sometimes unpredictable, ebb and flow, so students should view the hours per week guidelines as reflecting an average over the course of the semester rather than a scientific description of each and every week during the semester.
At the outset of the semester we ask students to create a clinic work schedule of their own choosing – that is, a regular schedule for the days and hours when they will be doing their clinical work. This allows us to coordinate client meetings, team meetings, and supervision schedules. Please note that we understand a student might need to adjust their schedule during any given week because of other commitments, the rhythms of clinical work, etc., so we don’t consider the schedule we ask students to submit at the beginning of the semester to remain the same for each and every week of the entire semester. And it is not uncommon for students to revise their regular schedule a couple of times during the semester as they figure out what works best for them.
In terms of developing your clinic work schedule, please note that some students find it useful to spend longer blocks of doing clinical work on fewer days rather than smaller blocks of time over multiple days. For other students, this may be a less important consideration depending on how they are most productive. You should develop the schedule that works best for you and should feel free to consult with your supervisor to receive any additional guidance that might be helpful to your planning.
The clinical seminar sessions take place over Zoom on Mondays from 5-7 p.m. EST.
Your clinical supervisor will provide you with guidance and LSC protocols for protecting client confidentiality while working remotely.
You will be given a computer program that will allow you to access client and case documents on your laptop in a secure and confidential manner. The necessary computer training and your access will be provided the first week of the semester once we complete a conflict of interest check.
We ask students to complete a conflict of interest form and submit it prior to the commencement of their clinical work. You can download the conflict of interest form here. Please complete and submit this form (via email, to firstname.lastname@example.org) by the Friday before the semester starts. Please note that depending on the nature and type of prior legal work a student has experienced, a student may need to confer with a prior legal employer to confirm information requested on the form. Therefore, students should allow sufficient time to complete the form prior to semester’s start. If you have any questions at all or believe you will need additional time to complete the form, please contact your clinical instructor.
In most instances, you will interact with your clients over telephone, Zoom, or other technology. However, because of the digital divide, poverty, and other factors, some clients may have barriers to interacting with their LSC advocate remotely. In those situations, your clinical supervisor will work with you to strategize about how best to uphold our obligations to the client while navigating these barriers.
Many of our clients speak English. Some speak Spanish, Haitian Creole, or other languages. We have two excellent Spanish translators on staff (Silvia Vazquez and Isabel Lima). We use interpretation services for other languages.
The Legal Services Center affirms that law school grading must take into account the unprecedented burdens posed by the pandemic in the lives of our students, especially because these unique challenges are not distributed equally across the student population. We also affirm that we always endeavor to teach and grade our students equitably and are mindful of circumstances and context. We express deep admiration for how our students have responded to multiple challenges and so zealously and effectively advocated for their clinic clients in this time of crisis.
Some students decide to come back for a second–and even a third–semester of clinical work at LSC. They do so for any number of reasons. Some do so in order to work with the same client or clients for a longer period of time, to work on a particular case until its completion, to pursue an opportunity to represent a client at a particular case event (e.g., trial, hearing, deposition, negotiation, oral argument, etc.), to undertake more advanced work generally, or to explore new areas of practice within a clinic. Advanced clinical students do not re-take the clinical seminar or otherwise have any classroom obligations. The experience consists solely of lawyering under the mentorship of your clinical supervisor. Advanced clinicals are a great way for students to deepen their understanding of a practice area, to strengthen their bond with their clients, to expand their lawyering toolkit, and to hone their advocacy skills. If you are potentially interested in an advanced clinical experience or have any questions at all, please confer with your clinical supervisor. In addition, please note that advanced clinicals require a short online application and are subject to submission deadlines–all of which is overseen by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP). Please visit the OCP website for more information about continuing clinicals, including the relevant submission deadlines for each semester. As with an initial clinical experience at LSC, students can choose, within a range, how many credits they want to take in a continuing clinical and can develop their own clinical work schedule.
We are a vibrant public interest and teaching law firm whose work spans six clinics and practice areas. Among the many benefits of working in an LSC clinic, students have told us they most value the following:
- representing real clients in real cases
- the extensive opportunities for client interaction
- assuming responsibility for the most important parts of a case, from initial client intake to drafting legal documents and representing clients at hearings and trials
- making a difference for clients in need
- helping clients to avoid eviction, escape an abusive relationship, defeat an unfair debt collection suit, obtain disability benefits, or retain control over financial and healthcare decision-making
- working side-by-side with other students, both within a clinic and across clinics
- being immersed in a community-based setting
- developing practical lawyering skills by using those skills in real cases and receiving feedback
- learning by doing
- receiving close mentorship from experienced attorneys
- receiving regular and timely feedback
- interacting with partner organizations and professionals in the community, such as advocacy organizations, healthcare providers, and social service agencies
- LSC’s strong track record of helping students pursue public interest law careers
- LSC’s strong track record of helping students develop skills that are transferable to any context, including private law firms, government service, and public interest organizations
- LSC’s lunch-time speaker series, which brings knowledgeable and prominent people to speak on a variety of topics important to LSC’s work
To read additional perspectives on the student experience of working at LSC, please visit our blog.