Frequently Asked Questions

Clinics and Experiential Opportunities

Our nationally ranked clinical programs offer students the opportunity to put theory into practice.  Our in-house clinics operate like a legal services law firm embedded within the Law School in which students serve as lawyers on behalf of low- and moderate-income clients. In the Prosecutors Program, enrolled students work under the direct supervision of Assistant District Attorneys representing the Commonwealth in criminal matters in district courts throughout the Commonwealth. These clinics offer students the opportunity to perform all the tasks of a lawyer under the direct and intensive supervision of members of the law school faculty or post-graduate fellows. Clinic students represent clients and grapple with substantive legal issues, strategies, ethical and interpersonal issues inherent in lawyering. In working on their cases as the lead lawyers but with close supervision, students learn in a guided but self-directed manner that allows reflection on aspects of representation, how to improve their skills, and how to tackle new legal problems. The skills students learn and practice – such as interviewing and counseling clients, negotiating with opposing counsel and other parties, legal research and writing, navigating complex systems to further their clients’ interests, and courtroom advocacy – are transferable to any legal environment. Additionally, students often represent clients who otherwise would not have access to legal representation.

All of the in-house clinics and the Prosecutors Program hold weekly one hour and 50 minute seminars taught by their clinical professors. Although class content varies, generally the curriculum focuses on the lawyering skills and ethical framework necessary to effectively represent clients or the Commonwealth. Weekly seminar attendance and active participation are required. In addition to the weekly seminars, students will have regular individual meetings with their clinic professors or other supervisors to obtain feedback and guidance on their cases. Students will be expected to take initiative in seeking answers to legal problems and performing the essential tasks of lawyering. This process of the student first finding the relevant information, thinking through its implications, and then bringing it to the professor for feedback is intended to guide the student towards a better understanding of the law and is known as “self-directed” or “active” learning. As part of their work, students may work in an interdisciplinary environment with non-legal professionals to help meet client goals and problem- solve.

Students in most in-house Clinics and the Prosecutors Program should expect to work a minimum of 13 hours per week, excluding the seminar and seminar preparation. Students in the Innocence Clinic are expected to work 6 ½ hours per week.  The type of work varies from clinic to clinic but generally involves work on cases, court appearances, client intake and counseling, preparation for and execution of out-of-seminar simulations, and other case-related projects. The 13 hours per week is a minimum and workloads can be quite intense throughout the academic year. Students will be required to put in all the time needed to effectively advocate for their clients, even if that at times exceeds 13 hours per week. Further, the requisite hours often cannot be scheduled in advance (for example, 5 hours on Thursdays and the remainder over the weekend) because the timing of the work is case-driven.

The in-house clinics and the Prosecutors Program described in this packet and included in the Clinical Common Application are generally full-year programs. Students in all programs must be prepared to make a full year commitment to these programs. If students are interested in a one-semester opportunity, they should consider the Supreme Court Clinic, a Domestic or International Externship, Semester-in-Practice, the Legal Innovation and Technology Lab, or a simulation course.

All full-year in-house clinics and the Prosecutors Program offer 10 credits per year (5 credits per semester).  The Supreme Court Clinic, which is offered only for the fall semester is 5 credits (3 experiential and 2 for the seminar). In the full-year programs, three credits per semester are awarded for the case work and two are awarded for the seminar.  The seminar and case-work are graded separately.

Students in all in-house clinics will receive separate letter grades for the seminar and casework component.  All letter grades will be given at the end of the year. Students enrolled in the Prosecutors Program will receive 6 ungraded credits for the field work component and 4 graded credits for the seminar component. Students in these programs will receive a detailed set of written Assessment Grading Guidelines describing the criteria that will be used to assess their performance and upon which their grade will be based at the end of the year. They also will receive both mid-year and end-of-year evaluations from their clinic professors or court supervisors.

Students must satisfactorily meet the standards established by their Clinical Professor, as well as those set forth in the Assessment and Grading Criteria. Your clinic professor will work closely with you to provide you every opportunity to meet these standards and to support you as you learn new skills. If a student enrolled in a full-year clinic or the Prosecutors Program fails to meet clinic standards, that student will be removed from the Clinic and Seminar and will not be allowed to continue to participate in the program in the second semester. Students enrolled in a one-semester clinic who do not meet the standards established by the Clinical Professor and/or the Clinical Assessment and Grading Criteria will receive an unsatisfactory grade. A student who has a compelling reason for her/his inability to continue in the program, may be permitted to withdraw under very limited circumstances with special permission from the clinical faculty and Associate Dean of Experiential Education. There are some very serious consequences that flow from withdrawal or removal from Clinic. Please read the comprehensive Clinical Programs Withdrawal and Removal Policies at Appendix A below for complete details.

The typical student/faculty ratio in the in-house clinics is 8:1. Clinics accepting LIT students will have a ratio of 9:1 and the Family Advocacy Clinic, which benefits from both a practitioner in residence and a clinical professor, has a ratio of 10/11:2. LIT Fellows will enjoy supervision in their casework from their clinical professors, and also supervision on their legal tech projects from the clinical fellow who directs the LIT Lab. Because the Prosecutors Program is a hybrid model in which Assistant District Attorneys provide on-site supervision, the ratio is higher, generally 24:1. Regardless of the precise student/faculty ratio, students receive concentrated, individualized attention from their clinic professor(s) and will have the opportunity to form close collaborative relationships with both clinical faculty and other clinic students.

You should consider taking a clinic even if you do not necessarily intend to practice in that clinic’s area of law. Regardless of the subject matter, all clinics teach essential lawyering skills, including problem solving, strategic thinking, client communications, professionalism, and ethics. These skills are transferable to all areas of law and a variety of practice settings (transactional, litigation, in-house, etc.). In addition, gaining experience in diverse areas of law will help to inform and enhance your eventual practice.

It depends on the clinic. Students in certain clinics, such as the Suffolk Defenders, Juvenile Defenders, and Prosecutors Program, will appear weekly in court. Students in the Family Advocacy and Health Law Clinics may appear a few times per semester. Students in still other clinics may appear more often before administrative or legislative tribunals, or may be involved mostly in transactional matters. For example, students in the Immigration Clinic appear frequently before the Immigration Court, a federal administrative court. Carefully review the individual clinic descriptions in this packet to determine which clinic(s) best match your interests and priorities.

Specific eligibility requirements and policies can be found below in this packet. Each individual clinic may also have additional requirements which are listed in the Clinical Common Application. Beyond these eligibility requirements, selection is based on a student’s overall Clinical Common Application package, including the answers to the essay questions provided on the application, the student’s transcript, resume, and prior experience. The clinical faculty is committed to engaging a broad cross-section of students in each clinic. As such, grades are not the primary tool by which students are selected. Enthusiasm for the student’s first choice clinic and relevant experience (professional, academic and life experience) are valued. The student’s enthusiasm and experience will be judged based on the student’s application essays and resume, as well as any required references or interviews. Students who possess foreign language skills may be given preference in some clinics. In order to provide opportunities for the greatest number of students, admission preference is given to students entering their last year of law school and to those who have not previously taken a clinic.  In addition, students who apply for the LIT Fellowship, and who have satisfied the prerequisites, may be given preference in participating clinics, or may be given preference on the waitlist of participating clinics.

While we do our best to accommodate as many students as possible, we are unable to guarantee every applicant a spot in his/her clinic of choice. The number of applicants often significantly outnumbers the number of available in-house clinic and prosecutor slots. For this reason, we give preference to students in their last year and strongly encourage students to list an alternate program on the Clinical Common Application form. We also encourage students to pursue externship opportunities if not accepted into your first or second choice clinic. All students who apply for the in-house clinics or Prosecutors Program and are not accepted, however, are guaranteed an opportunity to enroll in an externship for credit – either through the Civil and Judicial Externship (formerly called “Internship”) programs, International Externship Programs (formally called “Internship”), Semester in Practice Programs, or by enrolling in a Directed Study placement. Students may also enroll in simulation courses or law “labs” (which are experiential components associated with doctrinal courses).

No student may be enrolled in more than one in-house clinic in any semester or receive more than 12 experiential credits (which includes credits for any externship/internship fieldwork, labs, and simulation courses) during his or her law school career. For the in-house clinics, the casework credits are 3 each semester for a total of 6 for the academic year.  It is possible to take a semester-long externship, lab, or simulation course one semester or summer and enroll in an in-house clinic the following year as long as your total number of experiential credits do not exceed 12.  Students who would like to take more than 12 experiential credits may apply for a waiver by contacting Associate Dean Kim McLaurin.

In general, students may not work more than 10 hours per week outside of law school if they plan to enroll in a clinic. Students needing to work more than 10 hours per week must seek their clinical professor’s permission. All students with outside jobs should speak with their clinic professors before enrolling to discuss whether they will have the necessary time and flexibility to devote to the clinic and to effectively represent their clients.  Exceptions to this 10 hour limit are made for evening students, but evening students must discuss their employment with their clinical professor prior to accepting a slot in a clinic. In addition, all students who will be working while enrolled in a clinic (no matter the time commitment) must clear all concurrent employment with clinical programs prior to enrolling and/or accepting outside employment. The in-house clinics function as a unitary law firm with different practice areas. Because of this law firm model, students in any in-house clinic will not be able to engage in employment, paid or unpaid, that may conflict with any of the other in-house clinics. For example, no student in an in-house clinic may simultaneously work at a district attorney's office because of the inherent conflict with Suffolk Defenders. Due to these potential conflicts, all outside employment must be reported at the time of application to clinics and at the start of the fall semester so that an employment conflict check can be performed. Students must receive the permission of their clinical professors before accepting or maintaining any outside employment while enrolled in an in-house clinical program. Students’ obligations to their clinics will be treated as the first priority when considering how to address any potential conflicts.

In-house clinics and the Prosecutors Program require substantial amounts of time. At varying, sometimes unpredictable times, the clinics may demand more than the 13 hours per week minimum. Because you will be representing real clients with life-affecting matters, your clients and your clinic work must come first. Students with substantial commitments to other activities, including journals, trial team, clubs, organizations, or other responsibilities, should discuss their workloads with their clinic professors to ensure they make informed determinations whether they will have sufficient time to devote to the program.

No. A student is not eligible to apply for any of the externship programs, including the Civil and Judicial Externship Program, International Externship Program or Semester in Practice for any semester in which they have been accepted into one of the in-house clinics or the Prosecutors Program. Students must decline their acceptance to a clinic before proceeding to apply for an externship. Very limited exceptions may be available and require approval from the Associate Dean of Experiential Learning.

Most clinics do accept evening students, provided that the students can be available to devote the minimum 13 hours per week to clinic work (plus seminar preparation and attendance) and are able to fulfill their obligations to their clients. Some clinics that involve frequent court appearances or meetings during business hours may be less conducive to the evening student schedule than others. If you are an evening student, you are encouraged to carefully review the individual clinic descriptions in this packet to determine which clinic(s) are the best match for your schedule. Some good options for evening students include the Supreme Court Clinic, the Innocence Clinic, and the Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Clinic.  If an in-house clinic is not a good fit, you may find other experiential programs, such as externships or simulations, to be more suitable.

Yes.  Students in their last year of the AJD program who otherwise meet the general requirements for the in-house clinics, including all co-requisites and pre-requisites, may apply for admission to any in-house clinic and the Prosecutors Program.

Yes. Those students who do not receive a slot in a clinic through the Clinical Common Application for the upcoming academic year (either their first or alternate choice) will be automatically placed on a waitlist. If a student accepted into any clinic declines the offer or withdraws from the clinic prior to the start of the semester, a student from the waitlist may be contacted and informed of the option to accept a position in that clinic. Clinical Programs cannot publicize a student’s place on the waitlist. If a student withdraws, priority will be given to other students who placed that clinic as a first or alternate choice. Waitlist priority may also be given to students who applied for the LIT Fellowship. If there are no other students who placed that clinic as first or alternate, the clinical supervisor will be given the option to choose from among the remaining students on the waitlist.

Although the Prosecutors Program is technically an externship with a District Attorney’s office, most of these FAQ’s apply equally to this program. That said, the Prosecutors Program is not part of the same law firm as the in-house clinics, thus students are advised to talk to Professor Christina Miller about the possibility of engaging in outside employment and other limitations. Students in the Prosecutors Program may not engage in any criminal or juvenile defense work while participating in the Prosecutors Program. Please also see the separate FAQ sheet for the Prosecutors Program.

Externships are field placements that can be taken for credit for one semester or during the summer term.  (These are distinguished from internships, which are placements that do not offer credit.)  Experiential Programs offers a wide range of domestic and international externship placements for credit. Please check with Professor Nicole Friederichs (nfriederichs@suffolk.edu) for more details on the options and the application process. We also offer other experiential opportunities designed to give students legal practice experience. These include the Accelerator to Practice Program (three year program that includes a clinical practice in the third year), the Legal Innovation and Technology (LIT) Lab, Human Rights Project (a lab course), Law and Psychology Lab, Bankruptcy: First Circuit Appellate Panel Amicus-Curiae Brief Project, Urban Mechanics: Boston Practicum, and a broad range of simulation courses. All of these programs require separate applications or registration – they are not a part of the Clinical Common Application.