Law School Clinics: A Great Way to Learn and Serve
- Jun 14, 2016
- Law School, Law School Life
Have you ever had the opportunity to peruse a stack of law school applications? Specifically the Personal Statement/”Why Lawschool?” sections? You’ll find a pretty common theme across them: I’m going to lawschool to save X (where is X is “the orphans,” or “Brooklyn,” or “the blue-footed booby,” etc). X, in the context of Why Lawschool?, is pretty much never “SIFIs from overburdensome regulation” or “Microsoft from paying royalties on questionably-acquired IP.”
And because you so rarely see such intentions expressed in personal statements, it’s intriguing to see how many promising lawyers graduating from their prestigious lawschools end up doing exactly that. Many more blue-faced partners than blue-footed boobies in the lives of most young attorneys, and Brooklyn often becomes just the place you take your horn-rimmed, tortoise-shell glasses on the weekends.
There’s an important exception to all this, however. Many law schools offer clinical programs, where aspiring lawyers can practice law in some capacity while still a student. It’s a great way to contribute meaningfully to cherished causes and indigent clients, and all before the “golden handcuffs” of student debt get slapped on after graduation. In fields like immigration, criminal defense and prosecution, accessibility for the disabled and more, students are having both a direct impact on individual clients they serve, and also working on broader public policy issues. Some are even taking their talents all the way to the Supreme Court.
Another tidbit to consider is that referencing clinics you’re passionate about can be a great way to explain to a law school admissions officer why you want to attend their law school, specifically. It demonstrates a sincere interest in the law, that you’ve already considered how you’d want to specialize, and that you’ve taken the time to research their school. And once you’re at whichever school, your clinical experience can also demonstrate to firms your competency in legal research, your ability to see a project through, or your comfort standing up in a courtroom and speaking in front of a judge or magistrate.
Clinics will be the first encounter many law students have with socially-beneficial legal work – and it’ll be the last encounter for others. Regardless of where you fall in, they are a great opportunity to have a meaningful impact while still just a student, and to contribute to a meaningful cause. Below is a link to Harvard Law School’s (huge school, huge range of clinical programs) offerings. What interests you?
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