Environmental Law Clinic: Clinical Methods
Students enrolled in the Clinic provide legal assistance to national, regional and grassroots non-profit organizations on a variety of environmental issues, with a focus on complex natural resource conservation and biodiversity matters at the interface of law, science and policy. Working under the direct supervision of practicing environmental attorneys, Clinic students help screen new matters and potential clients; formulate strategies; research and develop factual and legal issues; and prosecute administrative and litigation proceedings. During the term, students may meet with clients, opposing counsel or agency decision-makers; review and prepare administrative records; develop expert testimony; draft comment letters, petitions, pleading or briefs; and/or attend and present arguments in administrative and court hearings. In regular one-on-one meetings with supervising faculty, there is a heavy emphasis on learning how to write persuasively and present oral arguments. Indeed, in any given quarter, our students typically prepare a mix of state and federal, and trial and appellate, court pleadings, and because all of our hearings during the academic year are conducted by students, many students also have the opportunity to present oral argument in front of one or more judges. In addition, students participate in a regular seminar where we examine strategic, ethical and substantive issues arising out of the Clinic's work. The Clinic is a particularly good place to learn how to conduct effective legal research, marshal facts in support of legal arguments, and, above all, write well. We practice at all levels of state and federal court and before many local, state and federal administrative agencies. Our work involves extensive motions practice and brief writing, and often involves administrative petitions and policy papers. Our work is inherently cross-disciplinary. No prior environmental experience or background is necessary, but an interest in learning about environmental and natural resources law is important. Special Instructions: General Structure of Clinical Courses - - The Law School's clinical courses are offered on a full-time basis for 12 credits. This allows students to immerse themselves in the professional experience without the need to balance clinical projects with other classes, exams and papers. Students enrolled in a clinic are not permitted to enroll in any other classes, seminars, directed research or other credit-yielding activities within the Law School or University during the quarter in which they are enrolled in a clinic. Nor are they allowed to serve as teaching assistants who are expected to attend a class on a regular basis. There is a limited exception for joint degree students who are required to take specific courses each quarter and who would be foreclosed from ever taking a clinic unless allowed to co-register. These exceptions are approved on a case-by-case basis. Clinic students are expected to work in their clinical office during most business hours Monday through Friday. Students are also expected to be available by e-mail or cell phone when elsewhere during those hours. Because students have no other courses (and hence no exams or papers), the clinical quarter begins the first day of classes and runs through the final day of the examination period. Students should not plan personal travel during the Monday to Friday work week without prior authorization from the clinical supervisor. The work during a typical week in a clinic is divided into three components. First, as they are for practicing attorneys, most of the hours of any week are taken up by work on client matters or case work (this time includes meetings with instructors to discuss the work). Again, as is the case for practicing lawyers, in some weeks these responsibilities demand time above and beyond "normal business hours." Second, students will spend approximately five-to-seven hours per week preparing for and participating in weekly discussions or other group work in their individual clinic (scheduling varies by clinic). Third, over the course of the quarter each clinic student (with the exception of those enrolled in the Criminal Prosecution Clinic) is required to prepare for and attend approximately five inter-clinic group sessions. Students will be awarded three separate grades for their clinical quarter, each reflecting four credits. The three grades are broken into the following categories: clinical practice; clinical methods; and clinical coursework. Grading is pursuant to the H/P system. Enrollment in a clinic is binding; once selected into a clinic to which he or she has applied, a student may not later drop the course except in limited and exceptional cases. Requests for withdrawal are processed through the formal petition and clinical faculty review process described in the clinic policy document posted on the SLS website. Students may not enroll in any clinic (full-time or advanced) which would result in them earning more than 27 clinical credits during their law school career. The rules described here do not apply to advanced clinics for students who are continuing with a clinic in which they were previously enrolled. For information about advanced clinics, please see the course descriptions for those courses. For more information about clinic enrollment and operations, please see the clinic policy document posted on the SLS website. Elements used in grading: Attendance and participation in class, professionalism, timeliness, initiative, and follow-through on project work and other class requirements.
Instructors for this course (Past and Present)Deborah A. Sivas
Alicia E. Thesing
Matthew J. Sanders