- Students may only participate in one clinic at a time.
- Students may take a maximum of 16 clinical credits over their time at Harvard Law School.
This does not include credits earned through the clinical course component.
Please review the HLS Handbook of Academic Policies for more information on degree requirements and credit limitations. LL.M. students should consult with the LL.M. program office for clinical credit restrictions.
Who can participate in a clinic?
J.D. students in their 2L and 3L year as well as LL.M. students can participate in clinics.
Due to Massachusetts rules on representing clients in criminal proceedings, 2 clinics require students be in their 3L year: the Criminal Justice Institute and the ITA Prosecution Perspectives Clinic (Criminal Prosecution Clinic).
Some clinics have additional course requisites or require U.S. Citizenship for security clearance purposes.
Do all clinics have a clinical course component?
Yes. Most clinical courses are 2-credit seminars that meet once a week for 2 hours.
The majority of clinical courses are restricted to students who are currently enrolled in the associated clinic since the clinic and course are meant to be taken during the same semester. However, there are a few clinical courses that do not follow this model. Please check the clinic’s description in the HLS Course Catalog to see what the required clinical course component is.
Are there any pre-requisites for clinics?
Few clinics have pre-requisites, but if you are looking to do a clinic that includes criminal proceedings, Evidence or Trial Advocacy Workshop are most likely pre-requisites or co-requisites.
The clinic description in the HLS Course Catalog will list any pre or co-requisites.
The Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinic requires that students have taken the Negotiation Workshop before they are eligible to enroll.
If the semester ends and I want to keep working with a clinic, what options do I have?
Students who have taken a clinic can arrange to continue their clinical work into a subsequent semester or another year by applying for an Advanced Clinical placement.
The application requires the approval of your direct clinical supervisor and the clinic’s faculty director.
Advanced clinical students do not take an additional clinical course component.
Do clinic grades count towards Latin Honors?
Yes – grades earned through a clinic will count towards Latin Honors.
If a student receives permission by the Assistant Dean of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs to exceed the clinical credit maximum of 16 clinical credits, any credits earned above the 16 will not count towards Latin Honors. All independent clinical projects (and occasional Credit/Fail graded clinics) do not count towards Latin Honors.
Does my work in the clinic satisfy the HLS Pro Bono Graduation Requirement?
Almost all clinics satisfy the HLS Pro Bono Requirement. There are a handful of clinics that may have a mix of pro bono and non-pro bono projects.
You can read the Pro Bono Graduation Requirement or contact us with specific questions.
Registration and Add/Drop
How and when do I register for clinics?
J.D. students register for most clinics every year in late March or early April through a preferencing process in Helios.
Students register for the entire upcoming academic year – fall, winter, and spring semesters.
Some clinics are offered on a by-application basis. Students apply to these clinics according to the rules and deadlines stated in the clinics’ course catalog description.
LL.M. students also participate in many of the same clinics as J.D. students but have their own clinical application process.
Please see the information here.
Once clinical registration preferencing results have been released, students are able to add and drop clinics through Helios.
Students who are on the wait-list for clinics will receive automated wait-list offers if and when space becomes available.
How long does add/drop last for clinics?
As soon as registration preferencing results are released, add/drop period opens for clinics.
Students may choose to drop from a clinic up until that clinic’s drop deadline, which is stated in the clinic’s course catalog description.
Students may also add themselves to clinics with open seats at any time up until the clinic’s drop deadline.
Clinic waitlists tend to move significantly between the initial registration preferencing and the next academic year, especially for the spring semester of the upcoming year.
If I drop from a clinic, can I stay in the required clinical course?
If you were enrolled in the class as a direct result of your clinic enrollment (i.e. the class is either for clinical students only or you enrolled in the class under a reserved clinical seat) then you must also drop the class.
I received a clinic waitlist offer and cannot accept it – help!
There are a few reasons that you may not be able to accept the clinic waitlist offer.
- Check to make sure that you have enough room in your schedule for the clinical credits and the clinical course component credits. J.D. students may not enroll in more than 16 credits in both the fall and spring semesters (and may not exceed 3 credits during winter term).
- You may be enrolled in another clinic during that semester. Students may only take one clinic at a time, so if you are enrolled in a different clinic in the same semester as the waitlist offer, you will need to drop your current clinic enrollment before being able to accept the waitlist offer.
- You may have already taken the clinic. Students who have enrolled in a clinic once may not enroll again through Helios. Students interested in continuing their work with a clinic they have already participated in should apply through the Advanced Clinical program.
If you continue to have problems accepting your clinical waitlist offer, please contact us!
What if I want to drop a clinic after the clinic’s drop deadline?
Clinics line up clients, cases, and projects well before the semester begins, and depend on their enrollment numbers to determine how many cases to take. Thus, clinics have add/drop deadlines that are always earlier than the regular course add/drop deadlines. Dropping after the clinic’s add/drop deadline results in a “Withdrawal” (WD) notation on your transcript. Students will not receive any credit for partial or incomplete participation prior to withdrawing.
Clinical Credits and Work Schedules
How do clinical credits work?
In a clinic, you earn academic credits (clinical credits) for the work you complete. The majority of clinics allow you to elect 3, 4, or 5 clinical credits, although some clinics have a set number of clinical credits. Each clinical credit equals 4 hours of clinical work per week or 48 hours per semester.
Terms available Clinical Credits Hours of work per week Hours of work per semester Fall, Spring 2 clinical credits 8 hours/week 96 hours Fall, Spring 3 clinical credits 12 hours/week 144 hours Fall, Spring 4 clinical credits 16 hours/week 192 hours Fall, Spring 5 clinical credits 20 hours/week 240 hours
Over winter term, students receive 2 clinical credits. Students must be in residence working full-time at their placements, from the first day of winter term through the last day of winter term.
How do I change the number of clinical credits I am enrolled for?
Students can change their clinical credits in Helios up until the clinic’s drop deadline. Once the add/drop deadline has passed, students may request a change to their clinical credits by emailing Maggie Bay in the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs.
Each semester has a deadline, about a month into the semester, by which students must request any changes to their credit enrollment. More information about changing your clinical credits can be found here: https://hls.harvard.edu/dept/clinical/clinical-credits
I noticed that clinics do not have set time-blocks. How is my clinical work schedule determined?
Once students have been assigned a direct clinical supervisor, they will work with that supervisor to establish a clinical work schedule that fits with the rest of their academic schedule. Some clinics may have more detailed requirements about when (and where) the clinical work must be done.
Do I have to make up clinical work for holidays or vacation weeks?
You are responsible for consistently working the required number of hours each week throughout the semester, with exceptions for certain holidays and spring break week. During these excused absences, which you should coordinate in advance with your placement supervisor, you are required to ensure that all casework is covered and that clients are aware of your absence. Any unplanned hours missed from your weekly schedule of clinical work must be made up within a reasonable period of time on a schedule developed in conjunction with your clinical supervisor.
Externship Clinic Placements
What are the differences between an In-House clinical placement and an Externship clinical placement?
In-House clinics are located on-campus in Cambridge or Jamaica Plain neighborhood in Boston, and are staffed by HLS employees: Clinical Professors of Law, Lecturers on Law, Clinical Instructors, Clinical Fellows, and program administrators who teach students in the clinic and in the classroom.
Externship clinics have a slightly different format. Students enrolled in an externship clinic are placed at a variety of outside organizations that fall under the clinic’s subject area. Your direct clinical supervisor is most likely a licensed attorney at the organization you are working for. The director of the externship clinic serves as the instructor for the clinical course component. Students engage in clinical work on-site at the organization they have been placed with.
The Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs coordinates placements for most externship clinics.
Does transportation time count toward my clinical hours if I have to travel to my clinical placement?
Travel time does not count towards your clinical hours requirement.
Public Service Summary and Clinical Evaluations
Where can I view the pro bono hours that I’ve earned though my clinical placement?
All your clinical placements will be listed in Helios in the “Public Service” section under “Your Public Service” menu option.
Pro bono hours for your clinical placement are automatically calculated based on the number of clinical credits that you completed.
The supervisor listed on my clinical position is inaccurate – how do I edit the position to reflect the correct information?
If you notice an error in the information listed in your Public Service Summary in Helios, please contact us so that we may correct the information.
Please do not complete the evaluation until the information listed is accurate!
How do I view student evaluations of past clinical placements?
Student evaluation of clinics are available in Helios in the “Public Service” section under the “Jobs Search” menu option. Once on the Jobs Search screen, you can choose to filter by “Clinic” and select the clinics you’d like to view.
Do I need to complete an evaluation for my clinical placement?
Yes. Our office collects these evaluations as a way to monitor and improve students’ clinical experiences.
As the office that oversees the entire clinical program, we are always looking for student feedback about what works and what doesn’t work, and where there may be opportunities for new ideas or programs.
We also collect these evaluations to provide future students candid information about the realities of clinical work, which can help them as they navigate the registration process and offer insights particular to the student experience.
How do I complete my evaluation?
You will receive an email when you have an evaluation to submit. There will also be a notification on your HELIOS homepage. These confidential evaluations help OPIA and the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs learn which organizations offer good experiences. Supervisors do not have access to view them. Under Public Service, choose Your Public Service. Under Your Positions click the Evaluate link.
Confidentiality and Professional Conduct
What kind of guidelines do I need to follow as a student attorney?
In order for students to practice law, they must be practicing under the auspices of an existing clinic. You must not identify yourself as an attorney or give the impression to clients that you are an attorney, even though you have all the responsibilities and obligations of an attorney. Always advise clients and others that you are a law student. If someone mistakenly refers to you as an attorney or otherwise indicates that they think you are an attorney, you must clarify that you are a student.
The Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct or the rules or codes of the particular jurisdiction of your placement apply to you. Please make sure that you are familiar with these rules and can access them during the semester.
When questions or problems arise, there are many resources available to you, including your supervising attorney and the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Learn more at the Dean of Students page.
Are there any confidentiality issues I should know about?
The majority of students enrolled in a clinical are working in a law office environment, practicing under a special court rule. Because of this, you are bound by the same “attorney/client” confidentiality rules as staff at each placement site. While most clinical placements will address confidentiality issues with you, please feel free to raise any questions or concerns you may have with your supervisor.
We recommend the following as a starting point for dealing with client confidentiality:
- At all times, assure the client that all matters discussed relating to his or her legal problem and all written materials relative to the client or case are confidential. This also applies to potential clients you interview who are seeking legal advice.
- At the beginning of your clinical work, discuss any potential conflicts of interest with your supervisor, including any prior knowledge or legal work you may have accomplished on behalf of an opposing party.
- Do not refer to a client by name, provide identifying information or talk about details of the case in common areas of the office (reception area, hallway, elevators) where other clients or visitors may overhear you. This same rule applies when you are outside of the office (e.g., at a local restaurant), or when you’re in a law school setting such as a class. Although we encourage the integration of clinical work into the classroom, you must never write a law school paper or exam, or provide your professor with case file documentation containing the client’s name or other identifying information about the case or client.
- Handle case files carefully to avoid breaching client confidentiality. Whenever possible, case files and case-related documents should be kept in a filing cabinet, not on a desktop, where confidential information could be viewed by anyone walking by. Case files belong to the clinc and as such, all case/client related papers, files, emails, and electronic documents must be returned to the clinic by the end of the semester.
What are the guidelines for professional responsibility during remote work?
In addition, to the topics address in the on-line ethics tutorial we want to highlight some particular issues related to protecting confidentiality in the remote environment. First, we recommend that you seek out and actively engage in any ethics training/professional responsibility training available to you from your clinic/SPO or external placement. Second, we recommend you check in with your supervisor about your ethical obligations with a particular focus on the unique aspects of confidentiality in a remote environment.
Visit our page on Professional Responsibility and Remote work for more information.
Clinical Email System
Do I need to use the clinical email system?
If you are doing clinic work or working in a Student Practice Organization, you must use the clinical e-mail account exclusively.
Students working at an externship and pro bono placement must adhere to the policies set forth by their organizations. Many organizations provide students with an email address to use for their work during the placement. If the placement does not provide this, students should discuss the existence of their clinical email account with their supervisor and should use this account.
Students should not use their personal email account or their regular HLS student account for externship or pro bono work.
The clinical email account has extra security measures in place to protect the confidentiality of the student, the supervisor, and the clients from inadvertent disclosure of confidential information. This email account should never be used for personal or other matters unrelated to clinical/pro bono work.