Clinical Legal Education

Clinical Legal Education

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is an in-house clinic?
  2. What in-house clinics does USC offer?
  3. Can a second-year student enroll in a clinic?
  4. What is a simulation skills course?
  5. What simulation skills courses does USC offer?
  6. Why is it important to me to take a clinic or simulation skills course?
  7. I've heard clinics are a lot of work — is that true?
  8. How does the lottery work?
  9. Should I take Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiating (ICN) before enrolling in a clinic?
  10. Why doesn't USC offer more clinics?
  11. To whom should I talk if I have more questions about clinics or simulation skills courses?
  12. Do you work in teams with the clients or do you work one-on-one with the clients?
  13. Do you get class credit for the clinics? How many credit hours?
  14. How are you graded on your participation in the clinic?
  15. What are the prerequisites in order to participate in the clinics?

  1. What is an in-house clinic?
    Through in-house clinics, third year students at USC School of Law represent actual clients and learn about the law and the standards of the legal profession through real practice. Student practice is supervised by a USC School of Law professor from Clinical Legal Education and includes a classroom component. Clinic students practice under a special rule, South Carolina Appellate Court Rule 401, which allows them to represent indigent clients, arms of state government, or clients referred to the clinic by a state or federal court, department, agency, or institution. Clinic students are subject to the South Carolina Rules of Professional Responsibility. Experienced, full-time, tenure-track faculty teach client-contact clinics located at the School of Law, and devote a substantial portion of their teaching energies to providing clinic experiences for USC students.

  2. What in-house clinics does USC offer?
    USC School of Law currently offers these in-house clinics: Consumer Bankruptcy, Criminal Practice, Federal Litigation, Nonprofit Organizations, Child Protection Advocacy, and Juvenile Justice.

  3. Can a second-year student enroll in a clinic?
    Generally, no. Under the student practice rule, clinic students must have completed "the equivalent of four (4) semesters of legal studies" before enrolling in a clinic. Individual situations may, of course, vary (for example, a student planning on graduating in December may qualify for a spring semester clinic the previous year).

  4. What is a simulation skills course?
    In a simulation skills course, students study the practice of law and assume the roles of lawyers in a variety of settings, which depending on the class may include client interviews or counseling sessions, negotiations, witness interviews, depositions, motion arguments, mediations, jury arguments, appellate arguments, legislative hearings, etc. Students also prepare documents, such as pleadings, administrative comments, briefs, retainer agreements, counseling memoranda, etc. Like clinics, simulation skills courses let students learn to both think and "do" like a lawyer but in a setting without real client contact.

  5. What simulation skills courses does USC offer?
    Simulation skills courses include: Advanced Trial Advocacy; Alternative Dispute Resolution; Appellate Advocacy; Criminal Trial Practice; Discovery Practice; Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiation; Legislation; Tax Problems; and Trial Advocacy. Many of these courses are taught by professors in Clinical Legal Education, and some are taught by adjuncts and other members of the School of Law faculty.

  6. Why is it important to me to take a clinic or simulation skills course?
    As the 1992 ABA Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession (of which USC's Emeritus Professor Stuckey was a member) concluded in a report entitled Legal Education and Professional Development: An Educational Continuum that law schools have an obligation to produce law graduates prepared to practice. An important focus of law school is to help you "think" like a lawyer. Most USC Law graduates successfully master this crucial ability. Yet, in order to be successful lawyers, law students must also learn to "act" or "do" like a lawyer. Clinics and simulation skills courses provide opportunities to do just that.

  7. I've heard clinics are a lot of work — is that true?
    Yes. The nature of representing actual clients and the pace of client-contact work mean that clinic students often spend 10-12 hours per week (sometimes more, sometimes less) working on clinic matters. Keep in mind, however, that the nature of this work is very different from a typical law class. You are not just reading from a book and attending class: you are working with clients, researching and developing original work, and actually practicing as part of a law office. Moreover, clinics don't require final exams.

  8. How does the lottery work?
    Prior to registration for fall semester classes, students interested in a clinic for either the fall or spring of the next academic year submit their name on a form to the clinics office, room 131. The form can be found in the registration packet the registrar will publish.
    The student ranks up to two clinic choices based on the specific clinic and semester. For example, a student could rank first "Criminal Practice Clinic - Fall Semester" and second "Criminal Practice Clinic - Spring Semester." Or a student who prefers to only do a clinic fall semester could list first "Nonprofit Clinic - Fall Semester" and second "Criminal Practice Clinic - Fall Semester."
    A random drawing is then held before students register for fall classes. The list of admitted students into the clinics is then posted outside the clinic office. Because clinics are so popular, this method attempts to ensure that the maximum number of students can enroll in a live-client clinic class.

  9. Should I take Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiating (ICN) before enrolling in a clinic?
    It is a good idea to take ICN before enrolling in a clinic, or to take ICN even if you aren't planning to take a clinic. The skills covered in that course are fundamental to any law practice. Every year, graduates of the ICN course remark that they learned skills through ICN that benefit their practice daily.

  10. Why doesn't USC offer more clinics?
    The ABA requires clinic classes to be small, to allow for adequate and proper supervision of each student. Faculty members observe or review all student work and provide detailed critiques. Of course, this close supervisory relationship between professor and students means that clinics take significantly more time to teach than other courses. Clinics are therefore a significant investment of faculty resources by the law school.

  11. To whom should I talk if I have more questions about clinics or simulation skills courses?
    You can talk to any member of the Clinical Legal Education faculty: W. Lewis Burke (Consumer Bankruptcy Clinic); Jaclyn Cherry (Nonprofit Organizations Clinic); Patrick Flynn (Federal Litigation Clinic); Kenneth Gaines (Criminal Practice Clinic), Josh Gupta-Kagan (Juvenile Justice Clinic), or Anne Marie Ugarte (Child Protection Advocacy Clinic). Most of these professors also teach simulation skills and other courses.

  12. Do you work in teams with the clients or do you work one-on-one with the clients?
    Typically Teams

  13. Do you get class credit for the clinics? How many credit hours?
    Yes - 4 credit hours for all the clinics.

  14. How are you graded on your participation in the clinic?
    • Consumer Bankruptcy Clinic: Letter grade based on casework, simulations, and class participation
    • Criminal Practice Clinic: Letter grade based on casework and participation in class discussions and exercises
    • Federal Litigation Clinic: Letter grade based on casework, attendance, preparation, and participation
    • Nonprofit Organizations Clinic: Letter grade based on casework, class exercises, and participation
    • Child Protection Advocacy Clinic: Letter grade based on casework, class participation and other related work
    • Juvenile Justice Clinic: Letter grade based on casework and participation in class discussions

  15. What are the prerequisites in order to participate in the clinics?
    Consumer Bankruptcy Clinic
    Corequisite: Problems in Professional Responsibility or Professional Responsibility. Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiation, and Bankruptcy are helpful but not required.
    Criminal Practice Clinic
    Prerequisites: Evidence and Criminal Procedure
    Must be taking or have taken Problems in Professional Responsibility or Professional Responsibility.
    Federal Litigation Clinic
    Prerequisite: Evidence
    Must be taking or have taken Problems in Professional Responsibility or Professional Responsibility.
    Nonprofit Organizations Clinic
    Prerequisite: Problems in Professional Responsibility or Professional Responsibility.
    Child Protection Advocacy Clinic
    Corequisite: Trial Advocacy
    Prerequisites: Evidence, Trial Advocacy and Professional Responsibility.
    Juvenile Justice Clinic
    Corequisite: Problems in Professional Responsibility
    Prerequisites: Evidence and Professional Responsibility or Problems in Professional Responsibility.