Civil Litigation Program
The Boston University Civil Litigation Program, the law school’s civil clinic and one of the oldest clinical law programs in the country, started in a Jamaica Plain store front in 1969 with one supervising attorney. Today, seven full-time clinical law faculty oversee a program of more than 40 students who practice law out of their own suite of offices in the headquarters of Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) in downtown Boston.
The Civil Litigation Program gives students the opportunity to use their lawyering skills in all courtroom levels - from local trial and housing courts, to the state's Supreme Judicial Court, to the federal court. In fact, several landmark decisions by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court began as student-represented cases in the Civil Litigation Program.
Students in the Civil Litigation Clinic choose from three options:
- Housing, Employment, Family and Disability Clinic (HEFD) (full-year program) - 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. Other kinds of cases may also be assigned.
- Immigration Rights Clinic (IRC) (full-year program) - A litigation clinic in which students will represent migrant children, torture survivors and other vulnerable clients before state and/or immigration courts, as well as in administrative adjudications.
- Employment Rights Clinic (ERC) (one semester program, fall or spring) - Students will represent clients in unemployment compensation cases, and a possibility of working on wage and hour disputes, discrimination/sexual harassment cases, and Family Medical Leave Act cases.
Real Practice, Real Clients, Real Cases
Massachusetts allows second- and third-year law students to practice law in its state and federal courts under the supervision of clinical faculty on behalf of indigent clients in civil cases. Our goal is to put students on cases with a high likelihood of a hearing or trial at the end.
In addition to gaining important litigation experience, students interview clients and witnesses, draft pleadings and other legal documents, negotiate with attorneys and conduct research - all under the close supervision of faculty members.
The program helps students understand the importance of providing strong representation to all who need it, regardless of economic means. To further assist students with the training process, the eight faculty members of the Civil Litigation Program have developed specialized curriculums in negotiation, ethical decision making and case planning.
"The Clinical Program at BU Law was the highlight of my legal education. To this day, I draw on many of the lawyering skills that I first learned in the Civil Litigation Program."
- Bennett H. Klein '87, Director of the AIDS Law Project, Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Boston. In 1998, Klein argued and won the first US Supreme Court case to deal with HIV discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bragdon v. Abbott. In a landmark decision, the Court ruled that individuals with HIV are covered under the ADA.