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For the past decade we have been engaged in developing the Yale Law School clinical program. From time to time academic colleagues, practicing lawyers, and even non-lawyers have asked what we do. Our answer usually begins, "Here's what we do," and describes a program in which teacher-practitioners supervise law students who, while taking regular academic courses, provide legal services to clients with real legal problems in a busy law office located inside the law school. By design, most of the students participating in the program are in their second semester in law school. Clinical work is therefore part of the first-year program for two-thirds of the students at Yale. The student practice rules of the state and federal courts in Connecticut' permit supervised second and third-year law students to appear in court. As a result, our students regularly argue motions, try cases and handle appeals in both civil and criminal cases. Clinical seminars and a simulated Trial Practice course supplement the casework. Finally, we will say how much we enjoy clinical teaching, how competent and responsible the students are and how important we believe clinical experience is for law students.
Until we were invited to do so, however, we never could bring ourselves to put down on paper some of our thoughts about legal education in general, and clinical legal education in particular, gleaned from years of working in the field. These notes represent a beginning in that direction.
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