Academic Programs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Civil Litigation Program?

The Civil Litigation Program gives students an opportunity to litigate civil cases in the areas of disability law, unemployment compensation law, housing law, divorce and custody law, or immigration law.  The Civil Litigation Program is housed in the offices of Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), New England's largest provider of legal services to indigent clients. Students typically spend 10-15 hours a week at GBLS where they meet with clients and work on their cases.  The Civil Litigation Program also contains a classroom component where students practice pre-trial and trial skills in simulated exercises, and learn about the ethical dilemmas encountered by practicing attorneys.

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What type of cases will I handle?

Students applying to the Civil Litigation Program have three options: the Housing, Employment, Family & Disability Clinic (HEFD) (full-year clinic); the Immigrants' Rights Clinic (IRC) (full-year clinic); or the Employment Rights Clinic (ERC) (one semester clinic, offered fall and spring).  

The average HEFD clinic caseload over two semesters typically includes 4-5 cases in areas such as domestic relations, eviction defense, employment law and Social Security appeals.  The average IRC caseload over two semesters typically includes several asylum or humanitarian/refugee related cases. The average ERC clinic caseload over one semester includes three employment rights related cases.

Our goal for all three options is to get you cases with a high likelihood of a hearing or a trial at the end.

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What type of responsibilities will I have?

You will interview your clients, counsel them, negotiate with other attorneys, prepare legal documents, research the applicable facts and law, and prepare for and present your clients' cases at trial.  You will also file and argue motions.

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What type of supervision will I have?

Everything you do will be discussed with a clinical professor. Your professor will always go to court with you and will make sure that you are adequately prepared before you go. All of your written work and case planning will be reviewed and critiqued by your professor. The BU clinical professors are highly experienced professionals in their fields and dedicate themselves fully to your training and supervision.

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What is the classroom component of the Civil Litigation Program?

Students in the HEFD and IRC clinics take two courses: Pretrial Advocacy: Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiating (3 cr.); and Trial Advocacy (3 cr.).  The classes provide activities and simulations in which you role play with the skills we teach.  The culminating experience of the classes takes place in mock trials near the end of the spring semester. 

Students in the fall semester ERC clinic take Pre-Trial Advocacy: Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiating (3 cr.) and a "boot-camp" in Trial Advocacy. Students in the spring semester ERC clinic take Trial Advocacy (3 cr.) and a "boot-camp" in Pre-Trial Advocacy.

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How many credits will I receive?

Students in the HEFD and IRC clinic will receive 6 graded clinical credits (awarded after completion of both semesters) and 6 graded classroom credits (3 fall, 3 spring). Students in the ERC clinic will receive 3 graded clinical credits and 3 graded classroom credits.

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What is the time committment of the clinics?

The three civil clinics require an average weekly commitment of fifteen hours a week working on your cases in the field. Sometimes, when you have a big assignment like preparing for a hearing, you should expect to devote a lot more time that week. If you have deadlines or conflicts outside the clinic, like a paper due in another course or a job interview out of state, you may spend less time in the clinic, and you will be expected to structure your casework accordingly. It is important to understand for planning purposes that your time working on your cases is entirely separate from your time preparing for the three-credit Pretrial Advocacy course in the Fall and the three-credit Trial Advocacy course in the Spring. Each of these courses is distinct from the three credits per semester you earn for your field work.

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What will happen to my cases at the end of the semester?

After many years of working with students and clients, we know that two things will likely happen at the end of each semester. First, we expect many students will want to focus on their exams and final papers. Second, we also know that your clients will continue to need representation. Planning is the key to dealing with these two realities. Throughout each semester we emphasize case-management skills and ask that students work steadily on your cases so that your case work will be done by the time the semester ends. Second, with your clients's permission, we ask that you try to have important events such as hearings scheduled, or rescheduled, during the semester and not during the reading, examination or vacation periods. Last, we know that sometimes, despite your best efforts, hearings and other important events may happen during these periods when you are not available. If this happens, your professors will provide coverage for you

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Are there any prerequisites?

If you have not already done so, you must take Evidence during your first semester to satisfy the student practice rule. Students in the spring ERC clinic must have taken professional responsibility or take this class concurrently with the clinic.

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Does the Civil Litigation Program count toward a concentration?

Yes. Students participating in the Civil Litigation Program are eligible for the Concentration in Litigation and Dispute Resolution.

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Does the Civil Litigation Program fulfill the professional responsibility requirement?

The pre-trial advocacy component of the HEFD and fall ERC clinics satisfies the professional responsibility requirement. The pre-trial advocacy component of the IRC does not satisfy professional responsibility.

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How many students are accepted to the program and how are those students selected?

Generally, 20 students are accepted in the IRC, and 22 students are accepted into the HEFD Clinic. 6 students are accepted to the ERC Clinic each semester. Preference for the Civil Litigation Program is given to 3Ls. 2Ls are selected by lottery.

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How do I apply?

Students apply through the on-line application system which will be available on the Clinical Programs website following the Clinical Programs Open House, which occurs each April.  Applications are generally due at the end of April for participation the following academic year.

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How do I find more information about the Civil Litigation Program?

Interested students can learn more about the Civil Litigation Program at the Clinical Programs Open House, which will take place near the beginning of April each year. You are also welcome to contact Professor Robert Burdick at rburdick@gbls.org.

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