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Follow the Steps to Create Your Project

Follow the Steps to Create Your Project

  • Research Organizations

    What Qualifies as an Independent Clinical Placement?

    Both domestic and international placements 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

    To set up your independent clinical placement, you must first secure an organization where you will be working during fall, winter, or spring semester. We encourage you to research organizations that match your individualized learning goals. If you are unsure about which organization you’d like to work with, you can search Helios for information about organizations or do a broader search by subject matter.


    • Group projects (students going to the same placement with the same project) involving more than 3 students are not permitted. Group projects involving 3 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.
    • 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. Please Note: During the Fall 2020 remote semester, approved students may set up remote independent clinical projects with organizations outside of Greater Boston.
  • Schedule an Advising Appointment

    To initiate the application, your must meet with Liz Solar (domestic placements), Jill Crockett(international placements), or Sheryl Dickey (if you’re an LL.M. student) in our office to discuss your ideas about placement settings, supervising attorneys, faculty sponsors, and the details of the work you will be proposing. You should schedule this appointment as early as possible in the semester.

    Schedule your Appointment

  • Secure Organization and Supervising Attorney

    After you secure an organization and meet with an OCP advisor, students must find a Supervising Attorney at the placement organization who will be responsible for directly supervising their work. You should send the supervising attorney the Supervising Attorney Form to review and sign.  You will then submit the signed form with your application.

    It is essential that students develop their project proposals 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.

    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.


    • 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.

  • Secure Faculty Sponsor & Develop a Paper Topic

    Students must find a faculty to sponsor who will monitor their reflection essays and academic paper. They are required to meet with their faculty sponsor ahead of time to discuss their proposed placements, work, and paper.

    You should send the faculty sponsor the Faculty Sponsor Form to review and sign.  You will then submit the signed form with your application.


    • Be a permanent HLS Faculty member or a Lecturer on Law who is part of the Clinical Program and is teaching in the following Spring semester. Faculty sponsors cannot be a non-clinical Lecturer on Laws or a Visiting Professor of Law;
    • Have expertise in the area of law pertaining to the independent clinical placement;
    • Have no personal or professional conflicts in taking on the role of sponsor;
    • Assist students in developing the topic for their academic paper;
    • Review the academic paper at the end of the placement;
    • Advise on and review weekly reflection emails from the student providing general (but not confidential) information about their work and reflecting on their experience;
    • Review the Supervising Attorney’s evaluation of the student, weekly reflections, 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.
  • Write Project Proposal

    The Independent Clinical Project Proposal should be detailed, focused, and realistic (i.e., for a winter term project, it must be work that can be completed in three weeks).  This project proposal should be developed through discussions with your Supervising Attorney, the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs, and your HLS Faculty Sponsor.  A project proposal should include the following:

    Project Description

    • Describe your placement organization and its mission.
    • Outline your proposed project including your anticipated responsibilities and activities.
    • If you are proposing a group project with 1 or 2 other students, please describe how your individual participation is essential to the project and what your proposed individual contribution will be to the project.  NOTE: A group project with more than 3 students is not permitted.
    • If you worked with the organization before, please note when and in what capacity you worked with the organization and indicate how you will build on your previous experience with the organization.

    Statement of Interest

    • Explain how your proposed independent clinical project is different from practice opportunities available at HLS in the clinical program.
    • Explain your interest in this subject area.
    • Describe how your proposed independent clinical will advance your academic and professional goals.

    Academic Paper

    • Explain why you chose your faculty sponsor and how the faculty member’s area of expertise will assist you with your project.
    • Provide a description of your proposed 15 page academic paper topic that relates to some aspect of the work of the placement organization or the field of practice.  NOTE: The paper cannot be work product the student produces during the placement, and must involve some original research and analysis of policy or practice.
  • Pre-approved Independent Clinicals

    OCP has pre-approved a limited number of independent clinical placements 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. All of the pre-approved placements are subject to change.

    Click here to view the current “Pre-approved” Independent Clinicals

Students are expected to find an organization they can work with that is a good match for their individualized learning goals. OCP does not provide a list of organizations that have hosted students in the past, as each project is intended to be independent and specific to a particular student’s interests.

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.

OCP approves applications based on the strength of the proposed project and the appropriateness of the placement as an educational opportunity.  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 his/her application is incomplete or the project is not deemed appropriate for academic credit.

Plan Ahead!

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