Planning for a Law School Clinic

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way,
2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

For upper-level law students, law school clinic experience is available … if you can secure one of the limited spots.

While many law students feel most comfortable in the confines of their doctrinal classes, law school clinics offer a more hands-on approach to learning. Many employers value and appreciate it. However, before jumping on the ‘clinical bandwagon’, there are a number of factors to consider when determining whether and/or which clinic is right for you.

law school clinic

  1. Time constraints

    Most law school clinics require a HUGE time commitment. It is unlike class where you can (occasionally) skip readings, or show up underprepared. In a clinic, you have a client on the other end expecting, and relying on, your best work and effort. Semester filled with pro bono hours, board meetings, and/or other intensive courses, such as mock trial? Then, push enrolling in a clinic to a semester where your schedule is more open.

  2. Credit Considerations 

    Most law school clinics are offered at a higher credit hour level than the average course. While this is great for satisfying the minimum semester credits, you also need to be careful when registering for courses. You don’t want to exceed the maximum allowable credit hours. Similarly, consider when courses are offered. If this is the semester where multiple required or wanted, courses are being offered, and you’re unsure whether they will be available in the following semester, consider whether it is possible to: (A) take those courses, and (B) commit to a clinic, or (D) whether you should defer enrolling in a clinic.

  3. Employment Considerations 

    So you’ve decided that you have time and scheduling availability for a clinic … now you need to decide what clinic is right for you. One way to narrow your focus is the consider what area of law you are most likely to practice. Find a clinic which compliments that interest. Note: if you have not secured post-graduation employment yet, consider whether enrolling in a particular clinic will stand out to potential employers. Finally, drawing on the abovementioned, when selecting your law school clinic, consider the time commitment expectations and credit hours allotted for that specific clinic.

As someone enrolled in a clinic, I advocate for the benefits that clinical experience offers. However, clinic enrollment is not something to take lightly, you are accountable in a way that differs from doctrinal and seminar courses, so you need to be certain that you are able to adequately balance the workload of a clinic with your other school and social requirements before enrolling. However, if you feel that you can manage the workload, I can almost guarantee that the experience will be an enriching one, both academically, and professionally.