Civil Practice Clinic

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. 

Scope                    

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.