Legal Aid Clinic
The Legal Aid Clinic at KU Law offers students the opportunity to fine-tune their lawyering skills in a fast-paced, live-client setting by representing low-income clients under the careful guidance and thoughtful teaching of supervising attorneys. Since 1967, the Legal Aid Clinic has been working to secure “justice for and to protect the rights of the needy” in a wide range of civil and misdemeanor criminal cases. All clinic students must become licensed for supervised practice through Kansas Supreme Court Rule 719, which requires a minimum of 44 hours of coursework.
The clinic is structured around three inter-related educational components: a weekly class meeting, formal and informal supervision, and live-client representation under Kansas Rule 719. At the weekly class meeting, students might discuss and troubleshoot cases through “case rounds,” apply lawyering skills through simulations, or discuss readings about social justice, skills application or substantive law. When possible, speakers from the community and the local bar will share their insights from practice. Through supervision sessions, students work one-on-one with faculty members to reflect on performance, discuss case work, engage in critical assessment and feedback, and develop professional identity. The highlight for many clinic students, however, is the opportunity to take the lead role in representing clients — from initial interview and counseling, to court appearances and motion arguments, through settlement or trial — thereby building confidence and competence throughout the semester.
The Legal Aid Clinic faculty strives to select and assign cases that offer the greatest opportunity for impact and growth. Each semester, the faculty will focus on a social justice issue, substantive law theme or population to help focus and stimulate learning. Some recent areas of representation include:
- A criminal practice for juveniles charged with crimes in Douglas County District Court;
- A criminal practice for adults charged with crimes and municipal violations in Lawrence Municipal Court;
- A civil practice to provide legal assistance for individuals seeking name and gender marker changes through the Douglas County District Court; and
- A civil practice that may focus on school discipline, mental health, race and educational equity, and other emerging matters.
For more information about enrolling in the Legal Aid Clinic, please contact the clinic faculty or stop by 105 Green Hall.
Gaining practical experience through Legal Aid Clinic
Katy Kettler, L'19
Katy Kettler participated in the Legal Aid Clinic during her final year of law school. During her time in Green Hall, she also earned academic credit for involvement with the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies and the Medical-Legal Partnership Field Placement Program.
What did you learn from your experience with the Legal Aid Clinic?
I think getting to work with someone – opening a case and closing a case with a client – is not an experience you get anywhere else. Feeling that ownership over your work, and also the responsibility, makes you want to be better at what you’re doing. You are actually impacting someone. It matters that you do a good job.
It is a really good experience, and I would recommend it to anyone else in law school.
What initially got you interested in the Legal Aid Clinic?
I’ve always known that I wanted to do public interest work, so it just fit for me to do the Legal Aid Clinic.
I definitely enjoy clinic work more than the classroom. I think it has made me more aware of my interests and what I’m drawn to. I’m glad I’ve gotten that practical experience.
How do you think this experience will apply after you’re done with school?
I think clinic experience will help me feel less anxious about my first job because I have now worked with clients, been in a courtroom and experienced a collaborative environment with peers. I think that having done the clinic will make the transition a little easier to my first job.
Eligible legal aid interns must satisfy Kansas Supreme Court Rule 719, which requires that they have completed three semesters of course work (44 hours) and be in good academic standing. Professional Responsibility is a prerequisite, and Trial Advocacy is a pre- or co-requisite. The clinic is a one-semester commitment, with a second-semester option for eligible students.
Clinic applications are usually due about two weeks before a semester’s registration opens. Check with faculty or see the weekly KU Law email for specific deadlines. Please contact Professor DeRousse if you would like to discuss enrollment.
Applications are available below and in the Legal Aid office, 105 Green Hall.
Download an application (PDF)