Learning in the Clinics

The faculty of the Law School recommends “a balanced program,” which includes, along with Constitutional Law, Corporations, Taxation and Accounting in the second year, “…one or more courses with a substantial clinical component anytime during the second and third years.” Unlike every other profession, law does not require a period of internship or mentored practice experience prior to admission to full licensure.

The early months and years in the practice of law are critical to establishing a basis for the development of sound skills and judgment and to inculcating rigorous standards of professional ethics and practice. We believe that students learn best under the guidance of experienced professional mentors (clinicians and faculty) whose job it is to teach students, but who are also practicing attorneys in their field of expertise.

Clinical and pro bono placements offer the opportunity to try out a different practice setting or explore new areas of the law. You will benefit from getting as much experience as possible in settings designed to train you for practice, and you can likely find many clinical placements that are directly relevant to the kind of practice you want to pursue. When you take on a clinical placement, you are accepting responsibility for real clients with serious legal problems. As such, you are required to devote an appropriate amount of time and energy.

Please be advised that in order for students to practice law, they must be practicing under the auspices of an existing clinic or student practice organization. Learn more at the Dean of Students page “Opportunities for Student Practice.”

Learning in a clinical course

Harvard’s approach to clinical legal education has three basic components:

  1. Direct student responsibility for clients and/or cases in a realistic practice setting: Taking direct responsibility for clients/cases in a realistic practice setting produces intense motivation to learn. You will bring many aspects of your law school learning to bear on a particular issue.(Note: Not all clinics are direct representation settings.)
  2. Supervision and mentorship by an experienced professional mentor: Clinical opportunities increase the potential for teaching and learning over traditional teaching methods alone and compliment lecture, discussion and even simulation.
  3. Companion classroom sessions in which clinical experiences supplement and contribute to further discussion and insight: Harvard Law School’s unique approach to clinical legal education requires a classroom component where students and faculty explore doctrinal, practice or policy complexities and subtleties.