Fall 2019 • Course
Impact Defense Initiative: Seminar
Required Clinic Component: This course consists of a co-bundled clinic (4 clinical credits) and seminar (2 classroom credits). Your enrollment will automatically include both courses
Additional Co-/Pre-Requisites: None.
By Permission: Yes. Applications are due by June 21, 2019. Please see below for more information.
Add/Drop Deadline: July 8, 2019.
LLM Students: This clinic is not available to LLM students.
Description: The Impact Defense Initiative is an innovative clinical course that will immerse students in the design and execution of a high-impact strategic litigation campaign undertaken on behalf of indigent criminal defendants in a state-level criminal court system. Over the course of the semester, students will work together in a collaborative and team-driven “law office,” alongside (and under the supervision of) the course instructor and in partnership with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, one of the nation’s leading public-defense agencies. In collaboration with attorneys from that agency, students will identify complex and cross-cutting legal issues that arise systemically across the agency’s cases and that entail high-stakes consequences for both its clients and for the fair administration of justice in the District of Columbia. The Impact Defense Initiative will then serve as either outside co-counsel to the affected clients or as a strategic litigation consultant to the agency itself, with the ultimate goal being to develop creative legal arguments, to map out a strategic litigation campaign, and to put that campaign into action through effective and sophisticated motions practice and advocacy.
Students enrolled in the course will serve as full and central members of the Impact Defense Initiative’s litigation team, which will consist of the students in the course and the instructor, operating in close collaboration with attorneys at the Public Defender Service. All enrolled students will meet weekly with the instructor and (by video conference) with partnering attorneys at the Public Defender Service. During these weekly sessions, the team will discuss and evaluate potential campaign strategies, develop and assign avenues of potential research, report on prior research assignments, and review and revise concrete deliverables such as briefs or memoranda. Depending on the nature of the issues and projects undertaken, students may also help to strategize and coordinate with additional actors and/or their counsel in order to develop support in the form of amicus briefs or other coordinated litigation tactics. It is also possible (though not certain) that students will have opportunities to travel to Washington, D.C., for pivotal hearings or arguments or for other important case developments.
Depending on the number of projects undertaken over the course of the semester, students can expect to be divided into teams comprising either one or two other classmates. Each team will assume primary responsibility for an assigned issue or project, with efforts undertaken in the assignment process to account for both students’ preferences and the need to evenly distribute work so as to meet litigation demands. All students, however, will participate in each weekly session and will contribute to and support the work of students on other teams—perhaps assuming primary responsibility for aspects of other projects as litigation needs arise. Local practice rules do not permit students to sign briefs or make arguments in court. But students enrolled in the course will nonetheless serve as the equivalent of an associate in a public-interest law office, contributing fully to the Initiative’s strategic decisions and its substantive work product, with each individual student expected to produce at least one (and potentially more) substantial written work products over the course of the semester—for example, a research memorandum, a strategy memorandum, a draft brief, or a substantial component of such documents.
In sum, students in this course will be fully immersed in a flexible, collaborative, and intensive strategic litigation campaign. Through that experience, they will practice and develop a range of skills, including: high-level legal research and analysis; sophisticated written advocacy; innovative litigation strategizing across multiple cases; and collaborative lawyering. Students will be relied upon for their research and writing abilities, their creativity, their professionalism, and their commitment to advancing the interests of the Initiative’s clients—and will be given opportunities to hone and develop these skills through close and collaborative supervision from the instructor.
Application Process: Admission to this course is by permission of the instructor. Interested students should submit an application to Maggie Bay (email@example.com) by no later than June 21, 2019. The application should include the following documents, combined into a single PDF: a cover letter, a resume, a writing sample, and a list of up to three references.
Cover letters should describe, if applicable, any prior or upcoming relevant work experience, including work on behalf of indigent clients, with criminal justice issues, and/or with substantive brief writing or written advocacy beyond the first-year curriculum. No such experience, however, is required for admission to the course, nor should students without such experience feel discouraged from submitting an application. Students who are engaged in potentially relevant work over the summer are welcome to supplement their application with an additional recommender and/or writing sample from their summer job, provided that all materials are received by the application deadline.
Applicants may be asked to interview with the instructor, either in person or by phone or video conference. Admitted students will be notified the week of July 1, 2019 and will be required to confirm enrollment by an add/drop date of July 8, 2019.
Grading: Students will be graded based on a combination of their participation in seminar, their efforts to contribute to the team’s project and deliverables over the course of the semester, and the quality of their formal and informal work product (including written work product, comprising both initial drafts and any potential second or additional drafts following feedback).