In-house Legal Clinics

Clinic

You may choose to participate in a variety of legal clinics during your second and third years. As a clinic intern, you’ll provide a much-needed public service while you sharpen your legal skills and broaden your practice experience in a real-life legal setting. Under the guidance of clinical faculty, you’ll offer helpful legal services to area residents and public interest organizations that can’t afford private legal representation. You may also participate in systemic policy and legislative work.

Clinic offices are located just a few short blocks from the Law School and conveniently close to the Cumberland County Courthouse at:

45 North Pitt Street
Carlisle, PA 17013
Phone: 717-243-2968

Children's Advocacy Clinic: protecting the most vulnerable
 

The Children's Advocacy Clinic (CAC) was established in 2006. It is an innovative interdisciplinary clinical program under the direction of founder and director Professor Lucy Johnston-Walsh, where law students and graduate social work students represent children in the legal system and work to address problems in the child welfare system. You’ll work together as a team, serving children who have been victimized as well as those involved in other civil court actions such as adoption, domestic violence, and custody matters. You’ll gain valuable hands-on training in some of the most intense, high-emotion situations a law practitioner will face. Clients are represented by both a law student and a graduate social work student who use a team approach to address children's needs. Social work students are supervised by clinic social worker Gary Shuey. Additionally, you’ll have the chance to work with pediatric residents and child psychiatry fellows from Penn State Hershey—deepening your understanding of the child advocacy landscape.

Clinic Requirements

Requirements to participate in the Children's Advocacy Clinic:

  • Complete three semesters of law school
  • Prerequisite preferred
    • Professional Responsibility
    • Evidence
  • Taking one of the following courses is strongly encouraged:
    • Juvenile Law or 
    • Child Welfare Law & Policy Seminar
Frequently Asked Questions

What kinds of projects does the Clinic handle? 

Law students are engaged in the direct representation of children in various civil matters. Cases include adoption, dependency, custody, and abuse. Students are involved in real courtroom experiences and learn basic lawyering skills of oral argument, research, and writing. Graduate social work students research resources to assist children, help develop case goals, and communicate with caseworkers, case managers, and other professionals.

Local courts appoint the Clinic to represent children in one of two ways. Most commonly, a student serves as guardian ad litem, representing a child’s best interests to the court while expressing the child’s wishes. Occasionally, the court appoints the Clinic to be a child’s attorney to represent the child’s wishes and legal interests. Law students are responsible for all phases of the legal case, including interviewing clients, drafting pleadings and correspondence, negotiating with other parties, and representing clients at hearings or conferences.

Another component of the clinical program enables some students to focus their legal skills in the area of policy and legislation. The students research systemic problems on behalf of their clients in the child welfare system and then work with state and federal government officials to develop broad solutions.


How is the Clinic structured?

The Clinic provides an interdisciplinary setting, partnering law students with graduate-level social work students, pediatric residents from Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and child psychiatry fellows from Penn State Children’s Hospital.

Law students selected for the Clinic will provide legal representation of children in the court system, as well as possibly working on broader policy projects on behalf of their child clients. Legal representation involves cases in various civil actions, including juvenile dependency, adoption, custody, and domestic violence matters. Students may also choose to do some policy work for broader systemic reform.


What kind of student commitment is expected in the Clinic?

The Clinic has limited enrollment. Students earn four credits per semester and may choose a single-semester or a two-semester commitment. Students are expected to average 12 to 16 hours per week in the Clinic and attend a two-hour class session each week. Students receive a grade for their participation in the Clinic each semester. Additionally, the Clinic offers limited opportunities for paid employment during semester breaks and the summer. In order to become a certified legal intern under Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules and represent clients in the courtroom, a student must complete approximately 43 credits by the time he or she applies for certified legal intern status. Students who are focused on policy and legislation need not be certified and could participate in the Clinic after completing two semesters of law school. Students work under the supervision of attorneys licensed in Pennsylvania.


What kinds of tasks do Clinic students perform?

As certified legal interns, students are responsible for all aspects of representing clients. Working under the direction and supervision of licensed attorneys, students learn basic lawyering skills like drafting legal documents, interviewing clients, investigating facts, completing legal research, communicating with opposing counsel and experts, and oral advocacy for court hearings. While the Clinic experience is focused on representing child clients, these basic skills are easily applicable to other areas of the law.

Law students who choose policy and legislative work typically research laws and policies of other states, draft legislation, and meet with legislators, youth, and other advocates. These skills translate into to other areas of policy advocacy.

Because all Clinic students work closely together and share their experiences during the weekly class session, students involved in courtroom representation are exposed to and also involved in policy development, while policy students often learn about courtroom representation from the legal advocates. All Clinic students also learn about collaboration through their partnership with medical residents and social workers.

Community Law Clinic: equal justice under the law


For those underserved populations living near or below the poverty line, the Community Law Clinic represents the way forward in matters of family law, disability law, and other areas where they need legal assistance. As a member of the Clinic and under the supervision of Clinical Professor Megan Riesmeyer, you will have the opportunity to represent clients through every level of the state common pleas court system or the requisite federal court system. You’ll not only gain valuable hands-on training, but you’ll be a difference-maker for those who have nowhere else to turn. You’ll be their advocate in family law matters such as divorce, support, custody, adoption, and protection from abuse; and in disability law matters such as ability discrimination, special education, Americans with Disabilities Act claims, and Social Security Disability Claims.

Clinic Requirements
  • Complete three semesters of law school
  • Taking one of the following courses is strongly encouraged:
    • Family Law
    • Law of Individuals with Disabilities or
    • Administrative Law.

In selecting students for the Community Law Clinic, preference will be given to students who have completed the courses listed below because these students are eligible to become certified legal interns under Rule 322 of the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners:

  • Professional Responsibility
  • Evidence
Frequently Asked Questions

What is the focus of the Community Law Clinic?

Students can choose to handle family law cases primarily, disability law cases, or a mixture of both.


What do students do if they focus on disability law at the Clinic?

Disability Law Clinic students represent clients through every step of litigation of the various legal issues. Students interview and counsel clients and prepare all necessary court documents such as petitions, complaints, briefs, and pre-hearing memoranda. Students spend time reviewing medical, educational, and vocational documents very carefully prior to any court appearances.  Our students appear before Administrative Law Judges of the Social Security Administration, Department of Education Hearing Officers, and judges of the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas.


What do students do if they focus on family law at the Clinic?

For nearly thirty years, the Clinic has been dedicated to providing free legal services to eligible individuals in Cumberland County who cannot afford private attorneys or have been the victims of abuse.

Under the supervision of Clinical Professor Megan Riesmeyer, law students represent individuals involved in family law matters such as divorce, support, custody, adoption, and protection from abuse. Students will draft legal documents, interview clients, investigate facts, complete legal research, communicate directly with opposing counsel and experts, and oral advocacy for court hearings.


What kinds of tasks do Clinic students perform?

As certified legal interns, students are responsible for all aspects of representing clients. Working under the direction and supervision of licensed attorneys, students learn basic lawyering skills like drafting legal documents, interviewing clients, investigating facts, completing legal research, communicating with opposing counsel and experts, and oral advocacy for court hearings.


What kind of student commitment is expected in the CLC?

The Community Law Clinic has limited enrollment. Students earn four credits per semester and may choose a single-semester or a dual-semester commitment. Students are expected to average 12 to 16 hours per week in the clinic and attend a two-hour class session each week. Students receive a grade for their participation in the clinic each semester. Additionally, the clinic offers limited opportunities for paid employment during semester breaks and the summer. In order to become a certified legal intern under Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules and represent clients in the courtroom, a student must complete approximately 43 credits by the time he or she applies for certified legal intern status. Students work under the supervision of attorneys licensed in Pennsylvania.

Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic: making lives whole


Every day, low-income families in central Pennsylvania are caught in entanglements where medical and legal issues intersect. Too often, a contributing factor to a health problem is a legal issue. Under the supervision of Clinic Director Medha D. Makhlouf, students in the Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) Clinic work with health care providers and advocates from Penn State Medical Group in Harrisburg, Sadler Health Center in Carlisle, and other community organizations to address health-harming legal issues through joint advocacy. The ultimate goal of the Clinic is to reduce health disparities and improve health in vulnerable communities through medical-legal advocacy. Here, you can take a lead role in providing holistic legal representation to low-income patients. The Clinic focuses on public benefits, immigration, and health care planning matters, but may also address related housing and education issues.

Students take the lead role in all aspects of their cases. Students will also have opportunities to work on projects, such as drafting advocacy guides for providers and community members; training medical residents on legal issues impacting their patients; and planning community education events with medical students. Over time, the Clinic may undertake broader policy-related projects that arise from its casework. All cases and projects involve interprofessional collaboration with medical providers.

Class sessions in the MLP Clinic cover clinical methodology, relevant substantive law topics, effective advocacy strategies, theories of social justice lawyering, and critical issues arising at this unique moment in the history of health care. These include the ongoing debates about the goals of health care reform, increasing restrictions on eligibility for many public benefits, and the persistence of health disparities in our communities.

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