The General Clinic (GC) is a one-semester, seven-credit clinic that offers students an extremely diverse array of substantive areas of practice. Because of this unique feature, GC graduates leave with a firm grasp of the lawyering competencies that will equip them for litigation practice in any substantive area of law. Community members who are interested in seeing if they qualify for free representation by the GC should visit our Community Resources page.
GC students take "first chair" responsibility for their cases and clients. This means that, with the guidance of GC faculty, students interview and counsel clients, conduct discovery, draft and argue motions, negotiate with opposing counsel, and conduct bench and jury trials and appeals. Cases are heard in state and federal courts and administrative venues. GC students have conducted jury trials in a range of courts, and have taken appeals to every level of the state and federal appellate courts, including the Michigan and U.S. supreme courts. Unlike in more urban areas where the courts are congested and the delays interminable, in the courts where we practice the dockets move quickly. Every semester, our students get to court on a rich variety of cases.
On the civil side, GC students represent clients in many areas of the law, including landlord-tenant, consumer fraud, contract disputes, prisoners' civil rights, discrimination, sexual harassment, political asylum and refugee, mortgage foreclosure, and social security or other public benefits claims. On the criminal side, students represent clients charged with misdemeanors from arraignment through trial. Students also handle some post-judgment issues in serious felony cases. The clinic's docket frequently includes class actions, issues of first impression, and other impact litigation.
In the classroom, students go through a progression of trial advocacy simulations to help them master litigation competencies from the initial client interview through closing arguments at trial. Class sessions also address the role of the lawyer, "real world" ethical issues, client-centered lawyering, the adversarial process, and other issues affecting the GC's clients.
There is also a three-credit Advanced Clinic that is offered to students who have done exceptionally well during their first GC term. These students return for a second semester of supervised case work. The second term helps students further develop their lawyering competencies, often while working on more complex cases.