Real-World Experience with Real Impact
Michigan Law has long been known for its distinctive educational blend of leading scholarship and legal practice. In today's competitive environment, it is more important than ever for new graduates to hit the ground running in the practice of law. For 40 years, Michigan Law has offered clinical programs designed to hone tangible legal skills. They allow students to provide direct representation to clients under the supervision of experienced, full-time faculty. Under the State of Michigan's court rules, students may begin practicing law as early as their 2L year and receive course credit for the experience.
Michigan Law's clinical offerings have grown significantly over the past several years, in both the variety of offerings and the numbers of students engaged in clinical work. The Law School now offers 17 clinics, and student enrollment in Michigan Law clinics has doubled in the past five years. Michigan student-practitioners represent a remarkable array of clients and issues, including children, families, small business owners and not-for-profit agencies, the wrongly convicted, those held against their will by human traffickers, and organizations bringing business solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.
With clinical faculty supervising, students prepare for each aspect of their cases, from interviewing clients and witnesses to negotiating with opposing counsel, drafting pleadings, conducting trials, and handling a wide variety of legal transactions. They move beyond the theory of the classroom into the real-world practice of law. Michigan Law's clinical education provides a unique opportunity for training students on how to think critically and strategically about legal issues while providing experience honing skills in legal communications, client relations, transactions, negotiation and mediation, professional responsibility, litigation, advocacy, and management.
Clinical programs are infused with Michigan Law's interdisciplinary emphasis. The Child Advocacy Law Clinic incorporates the work of psychologists and social workers, the Environmental Law Clinic coordinates its classes with the School of Natural Resources and Environment, business and engineering students work side by side with law students on transactions supported by the Entrepreneurship Clinic and International Transactions Clinic, and the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic, the first law school-connected clinic of its kind in the nation, partners with health care centers to address the legal issues that impact the health of low-income children and their families.
The Law School's commitment to a global perspective also permeates the clinics, providing students with experience in international policy and cross-border transactions. In the Human Trafficking Clinic, students collaborate with lawmakers and international human rights organizations to combat modern-day slavery. The International Transactions Clinic—which represents clients in Tajikistan, Russia, and Europe—trains students in the skills necessary to be an international-deal lawyer, including drafting cross-border investment documentation, advising clients on how to comply with U.S. sanctions law, and learning how to navigate multiple time zones to schedule client conference calls.
Public Service Commitment
Clinics allow students to gain hands-on experience helping clients who would not otherwise have access to high-quality legal representation, and to be a catalyst for transformation in clients' lives. As an example, our non-DNA Innocence Clinic has already exonerated four wrongfully accused people and won a new trial for another client. Public service is a foundational value of the Law School, and public service on behalf of the broader community is an integral part of our clinical program.
New Clinical Suites
The growth of Michigan Law's clinics and the important pedagogical role of clinical education are reflected in the Law School's new academic building, South Hall, which opened in 2012. The building features suites for the clinical programs, enabling faculty and students to meet with clients in a professional, business-style setting.
Michigan Law's clinical offerings, combined with our legal practice curriculum and breadth of practice-based coursework such as seminars and simulation courses, compose a rich portfolio of skill-building opportunities for Michigan students.