The Justice Lab Clinic
Course Title: Justice Lab Clinic
Pre- or Co-requisite: Legal Profession
Restrictions: Second- and third-year students only
Credit hours: 6
The Justice Lab is an intensive, one-semester clinical course where students learn to solve real legal, policy, and practical problems for client organizations. Justice Lab students represent community groups and non-profits in access to justice, systemic reform, and policy advocacy projects.
Each semester, the Justice Lab handles at least two unique projects. Justice Lab projects typically involve social, racial, and economic justice issues. In any given semester, projects may focus on topics such as criminal justice and prison reform, court reform, access to civil justice, economic development, housing, education, mental health, domestic violence, or child welfare.
In the Justice Lab, students explore the many modes of advocacy, outside of litigation, that lawyers can use to advance social change. Students learn traditional lawyering and advocacy models and are also encouraged to innovate, experiment, and build new models.
Clients’ goals and needs drive the Justice Lab’s work. As a result, students work on new areas of law and policy each semester. Though the work is client-driven, faculty carefully select and design each project to maximize student learning. Throughout the semester, students’ project work is guided and supplemented by weekly seminars, direct faculty supervision, peer feedback, and simulations.
The Justice Lab is equal parts demanding and rewarding. Students should expect to spend an average of 20 hours per week on clinic work, including a twice-weekly two-hour seminar, supervision meetings, and meetings with clients or other parties. Throughout the semester, faculty work closely with students and offer continuous, individualized, and goal-directed feedback and reflection opportunities. Students are encouraged and supported in setting and reaching their own learning goals. Students will engage in some or all of the following activities during their time in the clinic:
- Identifying, defining, and solving complex law and policy problems;
- Investigating justice and policy problems, identifying solutions, and developing proposals for change;
- Developing and implementing advocacy and communications campaigns;
- Analyzing public systems and identifying possible reforms;
- Analyzing and drafting legislation or regulations;
- Advocating for law and policy reform; and
- Building tools and developing systems that increase access to justice and community well-being.
Students will develop and refine the following skills and abilities:
- Research, analysis, and synthesis of law and policy;
- Interviewing and counseling clients;
- Fact investigation and data collection;
- Complex problem-solving;
- Collaboration with lawyers and non-lawyers;
- Use of empirical data as an advocacy tool;
- Strategic communication, including communicating about complex legal and policy concepts with audiences that are not law-trained;
- Legal project planning and management;
- Law firm administration, including using legal technology;
- Storytelling and narrative in advocacy; and
- Design thinking.