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Eligible Placements

After meeting with an OCP staff member, a student will work on putting together his/her project proposal for an independent clinical placement. Projects must involve legal work supervised by a licensed attorney and may include direct client services as well as broad based advocacy. Students may work at:

  • legal services organizations
  • public interest and other nonprofit organizations
  • criminal defense agencies
  • governmental agencies, or
  • the judiciary

Restrictions

  • 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 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.
  • Work on political campaigns is not eligible for clinical credit but may count towards the Pro Bono Graduation 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 focus solely on matters related to the public interest. Students may not receive compensation for any work that results in clinical credit.
  • Working remotely is not permitted as students are required to be on site at their placement organizations.

Creating Your Placement

Students are expected to find an organization that is a good match for their individualized learning goals. The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs does not provide a list of 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.

Students are encouraged to search Helios for information about organizations to explore or to do a broader search by subject matter. Helios may also be consulted to check if other HLS students have evaluated an organization that the student is considering.

For winter term, it must be clear on the application that the work is appropriate for a condensed time frame of three weeks. It must also be clear that the student and the supervising attorney have agreed on the details of the projects during the term.

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.

Students must review the requirements regarding the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects, domestic or international project funding, and international travel as early as possible. Meeting the requirements in these areas may involve advance planning and submission of additional documents.

Pre-Approved Independent Clinical Placements

OCP “pre-approves” a limited number of independent clinicals with organizations that have quality supervision and a commitment to providing an excellent educational experience. Students are required to apply to the organizations, which have their own separate application processes. When selected by the organization students must promptly submit their independent clinical application in accordance with the required guidelines. In preparation for submitting the independent clinical application, students should carefully review the application requirements. All of the pre-approved placements are subject to change.

“Pre-approved” Independent Clinicals:

Securing Your Supervising Attorney

As part of creating an independent clinical placement, students must secure a Supervising Attorney who will be responsible for directly supervising their work. The supervisor will need to sign the Supervising Attorney Form, which the student submits along with the online-application. 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.

Students are required 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 final evaluation. Supervising attorneys will recommend either a Credit or Fail grade to the student’s Faculty Sponsor, who will also take into account the final paper when assigning the final grade.

SUPERVISORS MUST:

  • Be a licensed attorney in the appropriate 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; and
  • Not be the same person as the Faculty Sponsor.

OCP will e-mail supervisors a handbook setting forth the requirements for defining work expectations and goals, conducting regular meetings with students, and evaluating performance.

Selecting Your Faculty Sponsor & Paper Topic

In addition to selecting a supervising attorney, students must also secure a Faculty Sponsor. Students are required to meet with their faculty sponsor to discuss their project and paper.  The Faculty Sponsor will monitor the academic writing component of the independent clinical placement and advise on and review weekly reflection essays.

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 Faculty Sponsor and must be identified in the online-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);
  • Advise on and review weekly reflection emails from the student providing general (but not confidential) information about their work and reflecting on their experience.  (OCP is copied on the student emails);
  • Review the Supervising Attorney’s evaluation of the student, and use the weekly reflections, evaluation and academic paper to determine the appropriate grade; and
  • Submit the credit/fail grade to the Registrar’s Office once the paper has been received and reviewed.  If an extension is granted, it is essential to submit the grade as “EXT” and inform OCP of the extension by emailing clinical@law.harvard.edu.