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Religious Liberty Clinic: Clinical Methods

The Religious Liberty Clinic is the only clinic of its kind in the country. The landmark program offers participating students a full-time, first-chair experience representing a diverse group of clients in legal disputes arising from a wide range of beliefs, practices, and circumstances. Students learn in class and engage through reflective and supervised practice the laws, norms, and limits affecting the exercise of religious freedom in a pluralistic society. Students are expected to counsel individual or institutional clients and litigate on their behalf with excellence, professionalism, and maturity. In clinic, students typically handle an accommodation project - e.g., represent a prisoner, student, or employee facing obstacles in the exercise of faith - as well as a longer-term litigation or development matter - e.g., represent a small church, synagogue, or mosque with zoning issues, or an individual challenging state preferences for particular beliefs. Opportunities to draft amicus briefs also arise. The clinic involves agency, trial, and appellate practice - though time constraints may not permit each student to work in all areas - under the empowering supervision of faculty and staff. Students work in assigned case teams but are also encouraged to help develop new clients and matters. 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: Clinical case/project work, clinical performance, seminar preparation and participation.

2015-2016 Winter
01/04/2016 - 03/07/2016
Instructors: James A. Sonne
2015-2016 Spring
03/28/2016 - 05/27/2016
Instructors: James A. Sonne

Instructors for this course (Past and Present)

James A. Sonne