Students spend the entire Spring Term 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 offices where lawyers investigate and litigate 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.
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 32 hours a week in the Spring Term, with the exception of spring break. Students who choose to start the clinic early in the Winter Term must work 40 hours/week during the Winter Term.
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 collaboratively find a placement to meet each student’s interest. During the clinic, the Clinic 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.
Click here to view a list of past placements and students who have participated in the clinic.
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.
Students attend an evening class twice a week during the Spring Term, taught by the Clinic Director. 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.
Travel and Relocation
Students can receive $500 for travel between Boston and DC.
Students can also receive up to $1000 to defray costs you may incur for moving or relocation arrangements such as a moving van, storage, the difference in subletting your apartment, etc. Students will need to pay for their own spring housing and utilities costs in DC as they would in Cambridge. Thus, it is strongly recommended that you sublet your local apartment and use the budget you would have used for rent in Cambridge towards paying rent in Washington, DC.
Students who are HLS Grant Recipients will automatically receive an additional $1500 as part of their grant, and do not apply for additional funding from the Clinical office. Contact Henry Rea from Student Financial Services (email@example.com or 617-495-4606) with any questions about funding for HLS Grant Recipients.
Students who are not HLS Grant Recipients will work with the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) on funding which is typically processed at the conclusion of the spring semester.
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.
Please note that this clinic is not open to LL.M. students.
DEADLINE: August 18, 2023
Enrollment is by application only, and limited to 2L and 3L students. Students must be enrolled full-time at Harvard Law School in 2023-24 to apply. For questions on eligibility (joint-degree students, study abroad participants, etc.), please contact the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.
To apply, students should submit the following information via an online form:
- Online application
- Statement of Interest (3 questions outlined in the application)
- Current resume
- Writing sample of no more than 10 pages
Meet the Instructor
Director; Lecturer on Law
Jonathan Wroblewski has been the Director of the Harvard Law School Semester in Washington Program since 2010. He is also the Director of the Office of Policy and Legislation in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In that capacity, he leads a team of policy analysts and attorneys in developing, reviewing, and evaluating national crime, sentencing, and corrections policy and legislation. Jonathan represents the Department of Justice on the United States Sentencing Commission, the Federal Judicial Conference’s Advisory Committee on the Criminal Rules, and the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Council.
Jonathan began his federal career in 1988 as a prosecutor with the Department’s Civil Rights Division, where he prosecuted criminal civil rights cases, including law enforcement misconduct, involuntary servitude and hate crimes. In 1994, Jonathan joined the United States Sentencing Commission, serving as Deputy General Counsel and then Director of Legislative Affairs. In 1998, he rejoined the Department of Justice in the Criminal Division’s Office of Policy and Legislation. Prior to his federal service, Jonathan served as an assistant public defender in the Alameda County Public Defender’s office, where he represented indigent criminal defendants at all stages of litigation. Jonathan’s prior academic work includes being a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge in 2005 as part of the Atlantic Fellowship in Public Policy program and serving as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University’s National Law Center and George Mason University School of Law. Jonathan graduated from Duke University in 1983 and from Stanford Law School in 1986.
In the News
Working for the people
Meet four former Semester in Washington Clinic participants who are dedicating their careers to government service.
July 6, 2023
‘A front row seat to history’ in the Semester in Washington Clinic
By Catherine Katz, J.D. ’23 [The views expressed are the author’s own and are not necessarily those of the U.S. government.] This spring, I participated in the Semester in Washington Clinical Program with a placement at the State Department in the Office of the Legal Adviser—also known as “L”. I was excited to learn about
June 1, 2022
A Semester in Washington with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
by Sarah Rubin J.D.’21 In the spring semester of my 3L year, I had the privilege of joining the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee staff of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) as an oversight law clerk. After working for a health policy research and consulting firm in Washington, D.C. and a Democratic pollster in
March 5, 2021