FAQs for prospective students

  1. Is it better to take the clinic as a 2L or 3L?

    We accept primarily 3L students for fall-semester classes; but, in the spring, the balance is about 50/50, and it is not unusual for us to have more 2L students than 3L students.  We are a research-and-writing heavy clinic, and some students feel more confident with more semesters under their belts.  But we’ve also had 2L students who hit the ground running and have become our go-to students on tough questions.  Trust your instincts on what’s right for you.

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  2. What kinds of cases does the clinic handle?

    The clinic primarily handles cases that are before the U.S. Supreme Court.  We work on cert. petitions, briefs in opposition, merits briefs, and amicus briefs at both the cert. and merits stages.  Sometimes we have worked as Supreme Court counsel to advise lawyers handling a case below as it heads to the Supreme Court.  But our focus remains at all times on Supreme Court practice and positioning issues for Supreme Court review.

    In terms of subject matter, the clinic handles all kinds of cases, including First Amendment challenges to state and federal statutes, immigration cases, admiralty cases, intellectual-property cases, tax cases, Outer Continental Shelf Act cases, civil-rights cases, habeas cases—you name it.  The clinic’s bread-and-butter is statutory construction, and that comes into play across a broad spectrum.  We typically do not handle death-penalty cases, except in coordination with the Capital Punishment Clinic; and we tend to steer clear of emotionally charged hot-button issues, if we can.

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  3. What kinds of assignments will I have as a clinic student?

    Our students sometimes work individually but more often work in teams on a wide range of projects that include researching and writing background memos, drafting sections of briefs, preparing questions for moots to help advocates prepare for Supreme Court arguments, participating in student-led moots of advocates preparing for Supreme Court arguments, citechecking briefs, and participating in brainstorming and/or Q&A sessions with other counsel in clinic cases.

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  4. I heard clinic students travel to D.C. to hear oral argument; how does that work?

    Clinic students receive up to $500 from the law school (for reimbursable, actual expenses) to defray the costs of a clinic trip we take each semester to see oral argument at the Supreme Court.  We try to tie our trips to cases in which the clinic has played a role, if possible.  And we also look for cases that won’t require students to line up outside the Court days before the arguments.  (Our students have developed an impressive collection of tips for the ticket line the morning of arguments.)

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  5. What criteria do you use when selecting students?

    Although grades undoubtedly matter, we look at an applicant’s entire record in an effort to identify students who will be a good fit for the clinic.  Because we’re a research-and-writing heavy clinic, we look closely at legal-writing grades and grades in seminars with substantial papers.  Also, Fed Courts grades definitely catch our eye if a student has taken that class.  Plus, we often reach out to professors in courses that require skills similar to those our students regularly use, hoping to get professors’ impressions of students and what they’re likely to contribute.  We also strongly consider a pattern of improving grades, as we know it takes some students longer than others to demonstrate their capabilities on exams.

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