Mission and Clients
The Civil Practice Clinic offers students opportunities to work with clients in state court civil matters and in federal administrative agency matters. The clinic represents clients in family law cases in Boulder District Court, social security disability cases before federal administrative law judges, and asylum cases before immigration law judges. Students handle their cases from start to finish, learning how to develop a case strategy and how to file the initial pleadings in court, appearing at court-ordered status conferences and motions hearings, participating in mediations or settlement negotiations, and taking the case to trial or administrative hearing. The clinic provides a rich opportunity for students to learn how to establish and maintain effectively an attorney-client relationship, and develop a sense of professional responsibility.
The Civil Practice Clinic is a yearlong course. Students are assigned cases at the beginning of the fall semester, and they complete their cases in the spring semester. Case work includes interviewing and counseling the client, filing a petition or complaint, preparing and gathering documentary evidence, appearing in court for status conferences or hearings, or appearing in front of an administrative law judge. In addition to casework, students meet weekly in a clinical seminar. The first semester includes simulated exercises related to civil practice, such as depositions or negotiations, lectures on substantive law related to clinic cases, or other relevant class discussions. The second semester focuses on courtroom evidence and trial skills and culminates with a mock jury trial.
Type of Legal Assistance
A typical client would be a woman seeking divorce from her husband. The client may be in an abusive relationship and may need a protective order. The law student would interview the client, prepare court pleadings, and arrange for service on the husband. In the first semester, discovery would be conducted and perhaps a temporary orders hearing scheduled after an initial status conference with the judge. When children are involved, experts may be appointed (special advocates) to investigate and make recommendations to the court on parenting time issues. The case would likely be set for permanent orders and a final divorce decree in the spring.
Another typical client would be an individual who is 52 years old, disabled, with an eighth grade education, seeking Social Security disability benefits, due to a physical or mental condition. The client would have been initially turned down for benefits by the Social Security Administration. The law student would petition for a hearing before a federal administrative law judge. The law student would work with doctors and other health care providers to develop stronger evidence to submit to the court. The claimant and witnesses would testify at the hearing, and the student would direct examine his/her client and cross-examine vocational experts and medical experts called by the judge to testify. The law student would also submit a legal brief to the court, arguing the merits of his/her client’s case based on testimony and medical evidence.