Academics

Clinics

 

The State of Florida authorized FAMU to establish a state-supported law school in Central Florida with legislation specifically requiring the College of Law to “develop and institute a program… [s]tructured to serve the legal needs of traditionally underserved portions of the population by providing an opportunity for participation in a legal clinic program or pro bono legal service.”  In compliance with this legislative mandate, in 2003 the College of Law instituted its clinical educational program, “The Legal Clinic Program,” when its inaugural class had matriculated to the third year of law school.

Thoughtfully modeled after other successful clinical educational programs, the Clinical Program offers third-year law students an opportunity to serve traditionally underserved clients under the supervision of the faculty, the bench and the bar. This gives students the uniquely valuable learning experience of wedding legal theory with praxis by assisting real clients with real legal issues.  Even though most cases are not resolved through a trial, it is critical for students to understand the pre-trial and trial processes to strategically facilitate the best resolution of a client’s case and to effectively counsel clients in what to expect in the litigation process.

In harmony with the legislative charge of the College of Law, the Clinical Program’s primary objective is to serve the traditionally underserved population of Central Florida. Thus, the Clinical Program will educate students in the practical art of lawyering, while providing quality legal representation to underserved individuals and organizations.  Clinic students have the unique opportunity to handle problems that arise from poverty, inequality and other social ills.

The Clinical Program also has been a bridge between the law school and the Central Florida legal community.  Members of the bench and bar extended their accessibility to students and helped the College of Law develop a successful clinical program by allowing the students to work at their places of business.  These connections not only strengthened the ties between the College of Law and Central Florida, but also created an opportunity for students to experience a broad selection of clinical education options. Unlike traditional courses, a clinic course offers students the prospect to “learn by doing.” Students gain first-hand insight into the strategic and ethical dimensions of the profession, and acquire valuable legal skills.

Additionally, the Clinical Program helps students explore career potential by exposing them to a broad spectrum of legal opportunities.  Students are equipped to make more informed selections about their career options and the legal settings in which they feel most comfortable.  The Clinical Program usually affirms or dispels prior notions students had before participating in clinical education.  Many students have never been in a legal setting.  The Clinical Program often offers students their first exposure to a legal setting and its operation.  Like other professions, students begin to learn their craft before they graduate, not after. Students exit the clinical program and enter the legal profession with an accurate and real sense of the practice of law.  Many of the students receive offers from the participating agencies after having completed their clinical program.

The Clinical Program also stresses the importance of effective communication as an essential lawyering skill.  Skillful communication is instrumental when speaking to a judge, writing briefs, drafting legal documents, interviewing clients or negotiating with opposing counsel.  The Clinical Program provides students with several opportunities for verbal and written interaction.

The College of Law faculty understands the importance of ethics and professional responsibility in the legal profession.  Professional responsibility is a prerequisite to the Clinical Program.  In the clinics, students learn how to weave ethics and professional responsibility into real-life situations.  Because ethical dilemmas commonly appear in all legal issues, students are counseled repeatedly on the importance of providing legal assistance within the parameters of the ethical constraints issued by The Florida Bar.

Oversight and Supervision

One of the key aspects of the success of the Clinical Program is the oversight by the Clinical Director and the faculty that are assigned to clinics.  Clinical faculty members hold weekly meetings with students in order to monitor their progress and continue the learning experience. These weekly meetings may include relevant readings and discussions, videotapes, one-on-one critiques, role-plays, and simulated exercises to strengthen the students’ learning experience at the clinics.  Clinical faculty members also interact regularly with supervising attorneys or judges to ensure the individual progress of each student.  Clinical courses are offered for academic credit on a pass/fail basis.

In addition, the clinics offer a three-hour seminar to accompany the externship or in-house clinic.  In the seminar, students learn substantive, procedural, tactical, and ethical issues presented when practicing the law. Faculty members teach the students basic skills through guest speakers, simulation exercises, discussions and lectures.  The seminar serves as a mechanism for students to grasp not only the basic skills, but also the area of law in which the clinic specializes. 

Clinical Educational Programs

The Clinical Program offers externships and in-house clinics.  The externships provide students the opportunity to work in a legal setting, such as a government agency or a non-profit legal services provider.  Students handle significant legal tasks, such as legal drafting, research, fact investigation, negotiating and client interviewing while under the direct supervision of faculty, staff attorney or lawyers in-house or at the agency or non-profit organization.  The Clinical Program includes externships in Criminal Defense, Death Penalty, Criminal Prosecution, Judicial Externship, and Mediation.

The in-house clinics provide students with even more in-depth hands on experience to work as a lawyer.  While working under the direct supervision of experienced clinical faculty, students have an unparalleled opportunity to interact with clients, opposing parties, opposing counsel and court personnel who provide valuable learning experiences, which cannot be taught in a classroom.  The Clinical Program includes In-house clinics in Guardian Ad Litem, Community Economic Development, Housing, Homelessness and Legal Advocacy.

Clinical Course Descriptions

The Clinical Program includes a variety of clinics to satisfy interests of most law students. The number of students in each clinic varies – generally depending upon the number of students capable of being supervised by available faculty or supervising attorneys.

CRIMINAL DEFENSE PRACTICE – Students represent indigent clients through various public defender offices in Central Florida in all phases of the criminal justice system under the direct supervision of assistant public defenders.  Student externs develop their legal skills and provide public service by representing indigent defendants under the supervision of on-site supervising attorneys and clinic faculty.   Student externs represent assigned clients before real judges and against real prosecutors.  Student externs participate in all phases of representation from client interviews to jury trials.  Students handle client interviews, factual investigations, legal research and writing tasks, preliminary hearings and motions, and trials. 

Pre-requisites:  Trial Practice, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, Criminal Procedure and Criminal Law.

DEATH PENALTY –Students are placed as externs with the Capital Collateral Relief Offices (CCRC) in Tampa or Fort Lauderdale to research narrow post-conviction collateral matters or do field work under the supervision of CCRC attorneys.  Students improve their advocacy, research and legal writing skills in one of the most controversial and complex areas of law in this country.  They also serve one of our school’s missions by providing a public service to CCRC’s indigent death row inmates and to the Supreme Court.  According to the latest Census report, there are 372 men on death row in Florida.  One hundred twenty-nine inmates are African-American, 231 are white, and 12 are designated as “others.”  African-American men comprise 35 percent of Florida’s death row population but comprise only 7 percent of Florida’s general population.  This clinic is offered to third year and fourth year night students.  Students must be pre-approved by the clinic faculty and the CCRC supervising attorney.

Pre-requisites:  Trial Practice, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, Criminal Procedure, Criminal Law, and the Death Penalty Seminar.

CRIMINAL PROSECUTION PRACTICE – The goal of the Prosecution Clinic is to provide hands-on experience to students by integrating practice with doctrine.  The Prosecution Clinic offers students the opportunity to practice criminal law as a certified legal intern under the supervision of an on-site supervisor and to observe and participate in a range of prosecutorial duties namely:  recommending appropriate charges for new cases; arraigning defendants; negotiating pleas; drafting and arguing pre-trial motions; and participating in trials.  The breadth of a student’s experience will vary according to the locale.  Students are placed in one of eight State Attorney’s Offices:  Sanford; Titusville; Viera; Deland; Daytona; Tavares; Ocala; and Bartow.  In addition to collaborating with State Attorney’s Offices, the Prosecution Clinic also provides students with the unique opportunity to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office located in downtown Orlando.  Selection is competitive and made by the Orlando U.S. Attorney’s Office based upon a student’s application and interview.  Students selected assist the U.S. Attorney’s Office with researching criminal and civil matters and drafting legal memoranda.  Students are expected to work with short deadlines, as some assignments are time sensitive. Students develop their advocacy skills by interacting with judges, court personnel, state or federal attorney staff, law enforcement, interacting with victims and witnesses.

Pre-requisites:  Trial Practice, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, Criminal Procedure and Criminal Law.

JUDICIAL EXTERNSHIP – This externship provides students with the incomparable advantage of working with local judges.  The experience affords students the ability to peer into the inner-workings behind judicial rulings and how juries decide cases.  Students research and write on a broad variety of legal topics, enabling them to hone their research and writing skills and sharpen their analytical reasoning under the direct supervision of members of the bench.  Many judges also offer observation of court proceedings.

Pre-requisite:  Professional Responsibility and a current GPA of 3.00 or higher

GUARDIAN AD LITEM  –  This clinic focuses on legal advocacy on behalf of children, while providing students with a strong foundation in lawyering skills and values.  This clinic addresses constitutional, statutory, and common laws impacting children, including the legal interests of parents and the government and the law's evolving conception of children's rights.  In addition, the class examines the role of the child's attorney and ethical considerations in representing children.  The substantive areas discussed include dependency, delinquency, guardianship, mental health, disability, medical decision-making, school law, child support, emancipation, family violence, and immigration. Special emphasis is placed on dependency law, including abuse and neglect, foster care, termination of parental rights, adoption, children's right to services and protection from harm, and state liability for harm.  In addition, students are required to participate in intake proceedings at the local Legal Aid Society office during the week and obtain a set number of court observation hours in both dependency and delinquency court.

Pre-requisite:  Professional Responsibility/Co-requisite:  Trial Practice

COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT– This clinic emphasizes transactional practice skills.  The clinic provides short term counseling in a broad range of small business matters such as corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, nonprofit organizations, art groups and the legal requirements for starting a small business. Students provide direct legal assistance, counseling, representation, community legal education, and informational materials to new and mature For-profit and Non-Profit organizations, individuals and community groups seeking to better the economic, social, equitable and cultural well-being of low income communities.  Assistance may be provided to groups that promote community and economic development in areas such as: community preservation, development and empowerment; drug prevention; homelessness; literacy; microenterprise development; social welfare; youth and teen development; entrepreneurship; and low-income and affordable housing. The clinic is designed to provide students interested in business law with a clinical experience that will expose them to the practical and substantive problems of issues related to counseling small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Students develop collaborative work skills and interpersonal skills in-group work.  They also explore the growing area of community economic development law and other areas that underlie efforts to enhance the economic viability of the community.  The students are encouraged to observe proceedings in the Business Court.

Pre-requisite:  Professional Responsibility and Business Organization

HOMELESSNESS AND LEGAL ADVOCACY – This clinic offers a comprehensive set of legal services focused on assisting and empowering low income individuals in their interaction with the legal system.  Students explore the facets of homelessness and the role of legal advocacy in addressing its causes and alleviating its consequences. Students have the opportunity to handle real clients and real cases ranging from family law, domestic violence, landlord/tenant, public housing, public benefits and consumer law.  The majority of our clients come from one on one intake meetings with students at two of the local homeless shelters.  The student conduct interviews of homeless individuals under the supervision of a staff attorney at the Coalition for the Homeless every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Women’s Residential Counseling Center facilities and assess the problems.  Students also conduct in-house intake of individuals who contact the clinic seeking assistance once a week.

Pre-requisite:  Professional Responsibility/Co-requisite:  Trial Practice

HOUSING – Students in this clinic help protect the rights of low-income tenants who are faced with an immediate threat of losing their homes due to an eviction.  In addition, students assist housing applicants who are requesting a return of their security deposit, seeking to avoid utility shut-offs and lock-outs, and termination of public housing and Section 8 assistance.  Students handling these cases touch upon areas of contract and property law, as well as other areas that overlap in housing matters, such as torts, administrative law, guardianship, probate, and bankruptcy.  Students are supervised and trained to handle all aspects of a housing case.  This real world training of intricate and complex housing cases prepares students for trial work.  Under the supervision of faculty and/or a staff attorney, the students have an opportunity to learn several key legal skills in the following areas:  interviewing clients; investigating cases; researching legal issues; counseling clients; negotiating with opposing parties; drafting pleadings; motions and discovery; and representing clients in mediation and in court.  Because of the unique nature of these cases, students have the rare opportunity to handling cases from beginning to end.  Students benefit from a basic working knowledge of substantive law, court rules and procedures, as well as important advocacy skills. 

Pre-requisite:  Professional Responsibility/Co-requisite:  Trial Practice

ALTERNATIVE TO THE CLINICAL PROGRAM:               

PRO BONO – A student can satisfy his/her clinical requirement for graduation through Pro Bono.  Per ABA Model Rule 6.1, the rule states:

A lawyer satisfies the public service requirement by providing legal services without fee or expectation of fee to (1) persons of limited means or (2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and (b) provide any additional services through:  (1) delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate; (2) delivery of legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or (3) participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.

To satisfy the Clinical requirement through Pro Bono, the student must perform work that is:

  1. Under the supervision of a licensed attorney;
  2. Legal or law-related in nature;
  3. Unsalaried and without other compensation such as academic credit; and
  4. Directly or indirectly addresses the legal needs of low-income clients, traditionally underrepresented population, groups or organizations.

Performing service in a private law firm, even if unsalaried, will not qualify as Pro Bono services.  All parties understand that a student's Pro Bono service must be law-related work conducted for low-income or underrepresented persons, which is conducted under the supervision of a licensed attorney without any compensation provided to the student-intern.

Second, Third and Fourth year law students are eligible to participate in the Pro Bono Program.  A student-intern is required to provide at least twenty (20) hours of law-related services at a community-based organization or with a Public Services Agency serving underrepresented populations and communities.  All materials are available for your perusal in the clinic reception area.  (No credit hours)