The most distinctive feature of the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) program of legal education is its commitment to clinical and experiential learning. Since our founding, we have advanced the notion that students learn to become effective and ethical lawyers through supervised representation of real clients with real legal needs. UDC Law’s clinical training program is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 in the nation.
The arc of our clinical and experiential learning program begins in the summer following first year, when students may elect to participate in the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program. Summer fellows receive financial stipends while providing a minimum of 400 hours of law-related, attorney-supervised service in judicial chambers, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Not limited to the District, students have served, learned, and made valuable connections all over the U.S. and even internationally.
Our signature program is clinical legal education, in which students work under the supervision of faculty members to provide legal services to District residents. UDC Law has the highest clinic requirement of any law school in the country. All full-time students experience at least 600 hours, and all part-time students experience at least 425 hours, of hands-on clinical work that prepares them to deal effectively with clients and use their legal knowledge to solve real-world problems.
Many students choose to earn additional credits by participating in an externship placement. The Externship Program allows students to earn academic credit for legal experience during the spring and summer semesters. Students enroll in a highly structured class that helps them develop their professional identities while working with members of the judiciary, governmental agencies, or non-profit legal organizations.
In addition, UDC Law faculty regularly develop new courses with practicum components that blend classroom learning with hands-on problem-solving activities.
For example, each year, UDC Law offers an “alternative spring break” for upper-level law students and professors participating in its three-credit Service-Learning Practicum & Seminar. On these service trips, faculty members and students work in partnership with local legal services organizations and community groups to identify and address a broad array of pressing community issues. It is a capstone experiential program that allows students to apply the learning from clinical and classroom courses.
Other types of practical learning opportunities UDC Law has offered in recent years: students enrolled in the Housing Law Seminar & Practicum spent spring break in Havana, Cuba, comparing legal approaches to homelessness and lack of affordable housing; students enrolled in State and Local Government learned about the Freedom of Information Act by drafting FOIA complaints on behalf of real clients; and students enrolled in the Immigration Law Practicum spent 2-3 hours each week outside of class assisting clients with immigration matters.
For students who know they would like to specialize in a certain kind of law, we have developed Pathways to Practice in eight broad practice areas to help you choose core courses, electives, clinics and other experiential learning opportunities that connect with specific areas of study and career paths.