The Independent Clinical program is designed for those students who are interested in a specialized area of the law or field of practice that is not currently offered in HLS’s existing clinical curriculum.

Applications are reviewed and approved based on the strength of the proposed projects and the appropriateness of the placement as an educational opportunity. It must be clear from your application that you and your supervisor have agreed on the details of the projects you will work on during the term.

Applications from students who are currently enrolled in or have completed an existing HLS Clinic or externship, or who have substantial experience in the area of law that is the focus of the project, will be given preference. Applications from students who do not meet these criteria will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students may be denied approval if their application fails to meet the required criteria listed on this website. Students should not make travel plans until they have received final approval from the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.

Liz Solar and Jill Crockett in the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) manage the Independent Clinical Program, and are available to assist students in designing an Independent Clinical project. Their contact information is as follows:

Liz Solar: Domestic Placements
6 Everett Street, Suite 3085 (WCC)

Jill Crockett: International Placements
6 Everett Street, Suite 3085 (WCC)

Make an Advising Appointment

All Independent Clinicals are 2 credit courses. During Fall and Spring semesters, two clinical credits represents 10 hours per week of work. During Winter Term, students must work full-time for the term (40 hours/week) to receive two clinical credits.

Getting Started | Picking a Placement Organization | Securing a Supervising Attorney | Selecting a Faculty Sponsor | Planning the Project Details | Submitting an Application | Student Responsibilities | Supervisor Evaluations and Grading | Funding (Winter Term Only)

1. Getting Started

To initiate the Independent Clinical process, students must meet with either Liz Solar or Jill Crockett in the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) to discuss their ideas about placement settings, supervising attorneys, and faculty sponsors, as well as the details of the work they will be proposing. Students should stay in touch as they develop and refine their proposed projects. An application has to be approved by OCP in order to be eligible for clinical credits. Not every application is approved, and students should pay careful attention to the various requirements, which are described below.

It is essential to review the requirements regarding the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects, domestic or international project funding, and international travel as early as possible.

Group projects (students going to the same placement with the same project) involving more than three students are not permitted. Group projects involving three or fewer students must be extremely strong to be approved. Each student must submit a separate proposal indicating their specific plans and how their individual participation is essential to the project.

Return to top

2. Picking A Placement Organization

Students may work at legal services, public interest and other nonprofit organizations, criminal defense agencies, governmental agencies or the judiciary. Projects may include direct client services as well as broad based advocacy, but must involve legal work supervised by a licensed attorney.

Students may do an Independent Clinical project in the Fall, Winter or Spring terms. A number of students take the opportunity to work at organizations away from campus during the Winter term. Students may apply for limited funding for a Winter term Independent Clinical project (see “Funding” below).

Work on political campaigns is not eligible for clinical credit but may count towards the pro bono requirement if it meets certain criteria. Approval for projects in the private sector is extremely limited and is determined on a case-by-case basis. Private sector projects must be done on a pro bono basis and focused solely on matters related to the public interest. Students may not receive compensation for any work that results in clinical credit.

OCP does not provide a list of pre-approved organizations that have hosted Independent Clinical students in the past, as each project is intended to be “independent” and specific to a particular student’s interests. However, students are encouraged to search HELIOS to check if other HLS students have evaluated an organization that they are considering as a placement organization. Independent clinical work at existing clinical externships may be available only if the sponsoring organization has supervisory capacity. Clinical placements associated with courses are prioritized over independent clinical slots.

Pre-Approved Independent Clinicals:

OCP “pre-approves” a limited number of independent clinicals with organizations that have excellent supervision and a committment to taking HLS students each term. Students are required to apply to the organizations, which have their own separate application processes and at the same time submit their independent clinical application in accordance with the required guidelines. Examples of these “pre-approved” independent clinicals include: The Securities and Exchange Commission – Boston Office and the Division of Administrative Law Appeals. These placements are subject to change.

Return to top

3. Securing a Supervising Attorney

Students must secure a Supervising Attorney who will be responsible for directly supervising their work throughout their placement. Supervisors will receive a Supervisor Handbook from OCP setting forth the requirements for defining work expectations and goals, conducting regular meetings with students, and evaluating performance.

Supervisors must:

  • Be licensed attorneys in their jurisdiction
  • Be employed by the Placement Organization and on site during the placement
  • Submit a Mid-Semester Evaluation of the student’s work (Spring and Fall semester only)
  • Submit a Final Evaluation of the student’s work at the end of the semester, together with a recommendation regarding whether the student should receive a Credit or Fail grade for the placement
  • Not be the same person as the Faculty Sponsor

It is essential that students develop their project proposal in collaboration with their prospective supervisor. This will help ensure that students propose work that is realistic, focused and in line with the mission of the placement organization. This will also allow students to be productive and maximize the available opportunities once they begin work.

Return to top

4. Selecting a Faculty Sponsor

An HLS Faculty Sponsor is required for all Independent Clinical projects. The Faculty Sponsor will monitor the academic component of the Independent Clinical. Each student is required to write a 15-page academic paper (not a reflection paper) related to some aspect of the work of the placement organization or the field of practice. The paper cannot be work product the student produces during the placement, and must involve some original research and analysis of policy or practice. The paper topic should be developed in advance with the assistance of the Faculty Sponsor and must be identified in the Application.

Faculty Sponsors must:

  • Be a permanent HLS Faculty member or a Lecturer on Law who is part of the clinical program. Faculty sponsors cannot be a non-clinical Lecturer on Law or a Visiting Faculty member.
  • Have expertise in the area of law pertaining to the Independent Clinical project
  • Have no personal or professional conflicts in taking on the role of Sponsor
  • Assist students to develop the topic for their academic paper.
  • Review the academic paper submitted by the student at the end of the placement(OCP is copied on the paper).
  • Receive weekly emails from the student providing general (but not confidential) information about their work, and respond as appropriate(OCP is copied on the student emails).
  • Review the Supervising Attorney’s evaluation of the student, and use the evaluation and academic paper to determine the appropriate grade.
  • Submit the grade to the Registrar’s Office by the end of the semester. If an extension is granted, it is essential to submit the grade as “EXT” and inform OCP of the extension by emailing

Return to top

5. Planning the Project Details

This is the opportunity for the student to digest and synthesize all of the ideas, reading, discussion and feedback they have obtained into a workable project that is realistic and achievable. The more thought that the student puts into the planning of their work, the more likely they will be to have a rich learning experience and a successful placement. Students should outline their specific responsibilities during the placement in as much detail as possible, along with the various activities they will be involved in.

Return to top

6. Submitting an Application

Complete the Independent Clinical Application (Harvard Legal Aid Bureau students must also submit the HLAB Supplemental Approval Form).
Incomplete applications will not be considered until all the necessary parts are submitted. Projects submitted after the deadline will also not be considered.

The following documents need to be attached to the Application:

Applications are due to the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs in WCC 3085 by the following deadlines:

Fall 2015: September 3, 2015
Winter 2016: November 2, 2015
Spring 2016: January 15, 2016

Return to top

7. Student Responsibilities

A basic premise of clinical legal education is that learning comes about through the self-conscious application of reflection to actual experience. There will be many opportunities for reflection during the implementation of the project. In addition, all students are required to submit the following:

Weekly Progress Reports

Students must submit weekly progress reports via email to their Faculty Sponsor and to Liz Solar ( at OCP for domestic placements, or Jill Crockett ( at OCP for international placements. These will not be shared with Supervising Attorneys. Emails should contain a discussion of the work performed together with a reflection on what was learned. Faculty are not required to respond to the weekly emails, but are encouraged to do so if they have useful feedback or suggestions.

Final Paper

The 15 page academic paper is due to the Faculty Sponsor and OCP at the end of the placement. This cannot be a reflection paper, nor can it be work product produced during a placement. It must include some original research and an analysis of policy or practice related to the work of the student or placement organization. The final paper will not be shared with Supervising Attorneys unless students give permission.

Final papers are due to OCP and your Faculty Sponsor by the following deadlines:
Fall 2015: December 7
Winter 2016: January 22
Spring 2016: April 22

Clinical Placement Evaluation

Students’ experiences and opinions are extremely important to the continuing efforts to improve the quality of clinical legal education at Harvard Law School and to determine the appropriateness and effectiveness of specific placements. At the end of the semester, students are required to complete a placement evaluation to assess the placement organization, the supervision received, and the value of the clinical experience. Please be as frank, specific, and constructive as possible.

Note: The clinical evaluations are completed online through HELIOS. Responses do not affect grading, as the information reported is not reviewed outside of OCP until after the semester’s grading process has been completed. The evaluation is not shared with the Placement Organization.


Students must pay careful attention to client confidentiality when submitting progress reports, final papers, and evaluations, and must make sure that they do not reveal client or organizational confidences, including any identifying information or case strategy.

Harvard Law School Independence

Students must avoid holding themselves out as representatives of Harvard Law School when representing or communicating with individual clients or with outside organizations. While it may be appropriate for a student to identify themselves as an HLS student, it is not appropriate or accurate to suggest to a client that he or she is being represented by Harvard Law School or Harvard University. Students must understand that their work does not reflect the judgment or opinions of Harvard Law School and that Harvard Law School does not direct or supervise their project.

Return to top

8. Supervisor Evaluations and Grading

Students are encouraged to meet regularly with their Supervisors for feedback throughout the semester and to initiate an exit interview at the end of the semester to discuss the Supervisor’s evaluation. Supervising Attorneys are required to provide two written evaluations of students’ work – a Mid-Semester Evaluation and a Final Evaluation – to assess performance, judgment, progress, and other factors. (During the Winter Term, Supervisors only have to complete the Final Evaluation.)

All Independent Clinicals are 2 credit courses and are graded Credit/Fail. Supervising Attorneys will recommend either a Credit or Fail grade to the Faculty Sponsor, who will also take into account the final paper when assigning the final grade.

Return to top

9. Funding (Winter Term Only)

Some funding is given to selected students who have proposed the most well-constructed, realistic Independent Clinical projects during the Winter term.This is to offset the cost of transportation and housing while the student is off campus. Applications for funding should be reasonable and necessary for the completion of the project. Students should not make travel or housing commitments until they know whether funding has been awarded, as funding is not guaranteed.

The pool of funding is limited and it is quite possible that some worthy projects may not be funded in any given year. Even in cases where funding is awarded, the full amount requested may not be approved.

Domestic and international projects have different funding requirements and deadlines. Domestic funding is administered by OCP and international funding is administered by International Legal Studies. Students should pay careful attention to the relevant requirements and be sure to leave enough time to obtain the necessary documents.

In reviewing application materials, OCP considers the following:

  • The necessity of travel in order to complete the project
  • The reason that a particular student should undertake the project, including its relation to the student’s past and intended academic, clinical and other experiences
  • The appropriateness of the scope and the feasibility of the project
  • The potential impact of the project
  • The thoughtfulness and clarity of the proposal
  • The relationship of the proposed budget to the outlined project
  • The availability of funds

Students traveling internationally must fulfill the requirements set forth by Harvard University and Harvard Law School. Please visit the International Legal Studies website for all necessary details. Students are urged to do this early in their planning process.

Return to top