HLS clinical registration for the 2016-17 academic year is just around the corner. We in the Cyberlaw Clinic often field questions this time of year from HLS students thinking about enrolling in the Clinic, trying to determine how we operate and whether the Clinic would be a good fit. To help guide students in their decision-making, we have assembled answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions:
Q: How much time do students spend working in the Clinic during the semester?
A: Students have different hours requirements depending on on the number of credits for which they are enrolled. Beginning next academic year, students will be able to enroll for 3, 4, or 5 credits, which corresponds to 144, 192, or 240 hours over the course of semester. Given that the semester is twelve weeks long, that works to an average workload per week of 12, 16, or 20 hours.
Q: I’ve heard stories of students who enroll in a clinic and then work ten times as many hours as they expected. Is that going to happen to me in the Cyberlaw Clinic?
A: The Cyberlaw Clinic team strives to be realistic about what we expect in terms of hours, and we carefully consider students’ credits and hours into consideration as we help scope projects and distribute the Clinic’s workload among students.
Q: What is the Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar?
A: All first-time Cyberlaw Clinic students must concurrently enroll in the 2-credit Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar, which meets once a week. The course aims to incorporate instruction about substantive legal issues at the heart of the Clinic’s practice, case studies and exercises designed to enhance students practice skills, and consideration of questions of ethics and professional responsibility that arise in the Clinic’s work. One of the main features of the seminar are student-led case rounds, where every student presents a novel or interesting issue they are grappling with in their Clinic work to the class for collaboration and advice.
Q: Where do students do their Clinic work?
A: We ask students to spend at least a portion of their time in the Cyberlaw Clinic space, doing what we call “office hours.” This allows for regular check-ins with Clinic staff and collaboration with fellow students. Having students on hand also allows the teaching team to pull people in when we have unexpected or fast-moving projects.
Q: How many projects do students handle throughout a semester?
A: While the number of projects depends on a student’s credit load, most can expect to work on at least one longer term project that lasts throughout the semester and one or two shorter-term projects.
Q: What types of projects do students work on?
A: Broadly, the Cyberlaw Clinic’s practice falls into several buckets, which come close to but do not fully encompass the breadth of clinic work: Communications Infrastructure; Consumer Protection, Privacy & Compliance; General Internet Business Law; Government Innovation; Intellectual Property; Litigation and Amicus Advocacy; Online Safety, Civil Liberties, & User Rights; Speech, Media Law, & First Amendment; and Technology & Access to Justice. The Clinic blog is a good source of information about the Clinic’s practice, as are our lists of filings and publications.
Q: Can students work on projects in different disciplines?
A: Sure! Subject to the Clinic’s roster of clients and clients’ needs during a given semester, the Clinic team does its best to match students with projects that fit their interests. That is true whether a student is intensely focused on a particular set of issues (e.g., “I want to do all IP, all the time!”) or seeks a more varied experience.
Q: What practice skills do students develop in the Cyberlaw Clinic?
A: Clinic students have the opportunity to hone many different sets of practice and professional skills, including legal research and writing, oral and written advocacy, transactional drafting, direct client interaction (including interviewing and factfinding), and project management. Students also learn about professional responsibility and related issues that come up in the context of law practice. Students can request opportunities to work on multiple types of skills or focus their time in the Cyberlaw Clinic on one particular area.
Q: What is the relationship between Clinic students and supervisors?
A: As with most clinics at HLS (and beyond), the Cyberlaw Clinic is student-centered. Students benefit from the experience and feedback of our clinical teaching team, but the work is done primarily by Clinic students. The process of producing work product is iterative, with supervisors and students collaborating closely on the various steps needed to reach a final result. But, the Clinic ensures on each product that students are in the driver’s seat. Members of our experienced staff serve as sounding boards as students puzzle out legal problems and determine how best to apply their knowledge to a given project. Students often work closely with one supervisor on several projects throughout the semester. But, the team works collaboratively, and it is not uncommon for multiple supervisors and multiple students to work together on a given issue. Communication between students and supervisors is essential to ensure that a client’s needs are met. Clinic supervisors have formal and informal check-ins and evaluations with students throughout the course of the semester to help each student identify areas of strength and areas for potential growth.
Q: How do students interact with clients?
A: Students are in charge of managing client relationships, determining courses of action on projects, and producing work product and developing client advice. Students handle direct communications with clients (including face-to-face meetings with local clients and phone and video conferences with clients located far away). Students also lead meetings, set strategy, and write briefs and memos. Ideally, students should serve as the primary points of contact for interactions with a given client over the course of a term.
Q: Do I need a technology background to thrive in the Cyberlaw Clinic?
A: Absolutely not! While some projects on the Clinic docket occasionally call for some technical knowledge, the majority do not. The Clinic is ideal for students who are interested in the legal side of technology and willing to confront and resolve novel legal questions and problems, regardless of their level of technical expertise. Many of our students go on to careers in some area of tech law, but many others do not.
Q: Oh no, I’m on the waitlist! What are my chances of getting into the Clinic?
A: Do not fear! While the Cyberlaw Clinic often has a long waitlist at the end of registration, our roster often experiences significant movement during the add-drop period before each semester. Even if you are number 75 on the list, there is a fair chance you will be offered a spot as your fellow students adjust their schedules. If you are interested in the Clinic and find yourself far down on the list, please stick with it!
Q: This list of frequently asked questions did not include the question I most wanted to ask! What now?
A: Feel free to contact anyone on the Clinic team — we can answer questions by email, hop on the phone, have you stop by our office for a visit, point you toward current students or alums to describe their experiences, etc. .