Students spend the entire Spring semester (except for Spring break) in Washington, D.C. working as legal interns in a variety of federal offices while taking an evening course on government lawyering. Placements are principally in federal government offices where lawyers conduct research and provide legal advice and assistance on policy, legislative or regulatory matters, rather than investigating and litigating cases. Students may choose to start the clinic early by spending the Winter Term in Washington, D.C. working full-time at their placement offices. Students also attend class twice a week (see below for more on the class) and write a 1-credit research paper that relates to the student’s Semester in Washington placement. To get an inside view of the program, students may access the Semester in Washington website, which contains detailed information about last year’s syllabus, course requirements, events, funding, housing, placements, etc. (note that this pertained to last year’s program, and information for the 2017 Program is subject to change).
Placements are coordinated by Clinic Director, Jonathan Wroblewski, in consultation with students and the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Clinical work exposes students to the distinct forms of lawyering practiced by government attorneys in diverse policy positions in the federal government. Students are required to work at least 30 hours a week in the 2017 Spring semester. Students who choose to start the clinic early in the Winter 2017 term must work 40 hours/week during the winter term. Clinical placements may span various practice settings in Congress and federal agencies or departments.
Placements in past years have included:
- the House and Senate Judiciary Committees;
- the Departments of Justice and State;
- the White House Counsel’s Office;
- the Central Intelligence Agency; and
- the Federal Communications Commission.
Students who are admitted to the clinic will meet individually with the clinic director to discuss their areas of interest and placement possibilities. Every effort will be made to find a placement to meet each student’s interest, but students who are accepted in the clinic may need to commit to the Semester in Washington Clinic prior to obtaining a confirmation of a definite placement. During the clinic, the director will meet one-on-one with students on a periodic basis to discuss their ongoing work experience and progress. Clinical work fulfills the J.D. pro bono requirement.
Please note: Given the nature of government office hiring and the timing of security clearances it is possible that placements may not be finalized until after you commit to this clinic. We make every effort to find placements for students in your interest area, but your decision to take the Semester in Washington Clinic may have to be made before you know your final placement.
Students attend an evening class twice a week during the Spring semester, taught by Jonathan Wroblewski. Readings and classroom discussions will be supplemented by guest speaker events and visits to government offices on several occasions throughout the semester. Case studies will supplement the core readings.
The course will focus on the role of the government lawyer in policymaking and the many forces that influence the work of policymaking generally, and the government lawyer’s part in that process specifically. The course will examine the skills required of government attorneys in policymaking, the unique ethical, legal, and moral issues they face, and the impact of politics and ideology on their work. The course will explore the role of think tanks and interest groups on policymaking, how these organizations have proliferated in Washington over time, and how their work and their influence have changed. The course will look at the discourse in policymaking in Washington, whether it has changed, and the implications of the state of discourse for the government lawyer involved in policymaking, legal advice, and advocacy. Finally, the course will explore the process of policymaking, the use of data and research in policymaking, and the role of the bureaucracy.
The course will include student discussions of their experiences in their clinical placements. Students will be required to come to class prepared to discuss relevant elements of their work each week. Guest speakers, including government lawyers, issue advocates, and think tank scholars, will visit the class periodically throughout the semester. Students will be expected to research the background of the guests and participate in class interviews to explore their work. The class may also include visits to government offices to examine, for example, how data used in the policymaking process is actually collected and synthesized. A course paper relating to the student’s work or to classroom subjects will be required in lieu of an examination. The course fulfills the Professional Responsibility requirement.
As part of the course, students will write an extensive research paper that relates to the student’s Semester in Washington work experience and receive 1 writing credit. The Program Director, Jonathan Wroblewski, will serve as faculty sponsor of this extended paper.
Students will be reimbursed for one round-trip travel between Boston and Washington, D.C. (or the equivalent, although restrictions apply) and will also receive funding assistance to help offset relocation costs. Other living expenses, including housing, utilities, public transportation, meals, etc., are the responsibility of the student. The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs helps facilitate housing opportunities, though most students prefer to make their own housing arrangements. Students receiving financial aid may request supplemental loan amounts of up to $1500 to enable them to participate in the clinic.
Applicants should consider whether the clinic will preclude or restrict their participation in certain campus activities, and if so be prepared to make appropriate arrangements. Additionally, applicants will need to evaluate their progress in completing JD degree requirements prior to enrolling in the Clinic. Students should review their degree audit and/or meet with the Registrar’s Office to ensure that they will meet the necessary residency requirements and graduation requirements before committing to participate in the Semester in Washington Clinic.
Enrollment is by application only, and limited to 2L and 3L students. Students must be enrolled full-time at Harvard Law School in 2016-17 to apply. For questions on eligibility (joint-degree students, study abroad participants, etc.), please contact the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.
The first round of applications are due August 19, 2016. To apply, students should submit the following information via an online form:
- Online application
- Statements of Interest
- Current resume
- Writing sample of no more than 10 pages
- Academic transcript
Faculty and Staff
Jonathan Wroblewski (Lecturer on Law)
Steven Trothen (Faculty Assistant)
Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs
Harvard Law School
6 Everett Street, Suite 3085 (WCC)
Cambridge, MA 02138