New Clinics Debut at Yale Law School


This semester six new clinics launched as part of a growing experiential learning program at Yale Law School. The clinics provide students with hands-on experience in a number of fields, including immigration, reproductive rights, environmental law, consumer protection, domestic violence, and human rights.

Yale Law School has one of the most robust clinical programs in the country and permits first-year students to begin taking clinics and appearing in court during the Spring semester. While each clinic is unique, they all enable students to represent real clients with real legal problems (not in simulations or role-playing exercises), and are supervised by faculty members and visiting lecturers.

As clinical offerings continue to grow at the Law School, students have a rich and diverse variety of offering to choose from. About 80 percent of Yale Law students take advantage of the opportunity to combine theory with practice.

“Our dynamic clinical programs reflect the deep engagement of students and faculty with the urgent legal and policy challenges of our times,” said William O. Douglas Clinical Professor of Law Michael J. Wishnie ‘93, Deputy Dean for Experiential Education. “The legal needs of our local and national community are not static, nor are the skills required of a twenty-first century lawyer. The same is true of our clinical offerings.”

The Arbitration Project is one of the new clinics this semester. It provides students with the experience to oversee and resolve contested cases from the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) as arbitrators and hearing officers. The DCP provides Connecticut residents with the option to resolve disputes regarding Connecticut’s New Car Lemon Law Program and the Lottery Delinquency Assessment process through arbitration. The course is designed to allow students to apply Connecticut law to facts in unresolved disputes and draft and render initial decisions describing their findings of facts, conclusions of law, and any applicable orders. Students are trained on substantive dispute areas, administrative procedures, as well as rules of ethics. The project is led by Professor Ian Ayres ’86.

“The arbitration project is the only clinic I know where law students get experience adjudicating actual disputes,” said Ayres. “For students looking to break into alternative dispute resolution, it allows them to serve as neutral third parties.”

Also new this semester is the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP). The project began in 2015 by four Yale Law students, with support from the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women's Rights, and is now a non-profit housed at the Urban Justice Center. This is the first semester that the Law School has offered the experience as a clinical course for credit. ASAP represents refugee families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to flee life-threatening conditions by using innovative methods to bring legal aid services to clients across the U.S where there are few or no legal aid lawyers, such as detention facilities and rural communities. The clinic exposes students to a range of topics including; U.S. asylum law and policy; relevant international law and institutions; political, social, historical, and economic factors underlying the current refugee situation; critical theory relevant to gender, ethnicity, and migration; core skills for client-centered representation; and trauma and secondary trauma. Students work in teams throughout the semester and handle up to three cases each, which may go to trial. The instructors for the ASAP clinic are Clinical Lecturer in Law Hope Metcalf and Visiting Clinical Associate Professor of Law Elora Mukherjee ’05.

"The ASAP seminar gives students the opportunity to work directly with formerly detained mothers and children who are currently seeking asylum or other relief in immigration court,” said Liz Willis ’17, one of the founders of ASAP. “Many YLS students already volunteer with the ASAP student chapter, and the seminar allows students to get more involved — they can prepare full cases, gain trial experience, and develop client relationships with refugee families. The mothers we work with are exceptionally strong and resilient, and the seminar's goal is to provide them with exceptional representation."

The Environmental Justice Clinic is another new clinic starting this semester. It is associated with a course called Environmental Protection Clinic: Environmental Justice and Practice at the Intersection of Civil Rights and the Environment. Students participating in the course will work to develop a docket geared toward improving the environmental quality and public health in communities of color and low-income communities. The clinic comes in the wake of a national conversation about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and other lead poisoning cases across the country. Students will be part of the ground floor effort as the Clinic takes on cases to address inequality in the distribution of health hazards as well as procedural inequities faced by community members seeking to assert their own vision for the future of their neighborhoods, towns, and cities. In addition to civil rights compliance and enforcement in the environmental context, the Clinic evaluates potential litigation and advocacy to address the sources and impacts of air and water contamination in disproportionately affected communities, with a focus on communities in New England. The instructor is Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law Marianne Engelman Lado.

“The Clinic will be representing communities that are overburdened by environmental hazards – refineries, landfills, poor waste management systems, and other toxic sources – and are striving to have a say in decision-making about their future,” said Lado. “Despite gross inequalities in exposure to toxic sources and a clear mandate under civil rights law, federal agencies have over time all but abdicated their responsibility for enforcing the law.”

The Clinic will be working in partnership with activists and community groups across the country to ensure that the law is enforced, Lado said.  “Over time, we also hope to focus resources on environmental justice issues in New Haven and in Connecticut, more broadly,” she added.

The Legal Assistance Domestic Violence Clinic, which is supported by the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women's Rights, is also new this term. Students in this clinic will represent survivors of domestic violence in New Haven Superior Court, in both civil and criminal matters, and also at the Connecticut legislature. The clinic is based out of the New Haven Legal Assistance Association (LAA), a non-profit legal services office whose mission is to secure justice for and protect the rights of those low-income residents of New Haven County who would otherwise be unable to secure legal representation. The clinic is a legal resource for survivors of domestic violence and their families. Through their advocacy and coursework, students in the clinic learn to practice as legal services lawyers, representing vulnerable individuals. Students will be charged with representing clients in restraining order matters, custody/violations hearings, and other areas of law that can arise from multiple legal problems such as housing or benefit issues, Title IX issues, or immigration matters. The course instructors are Visiting Clinical Lecturers in Law Constance Frontis and Ellen Messali.

The Reproductive Rights and Justice Project is another new clinic in which students will focus on advocating for reproductive health care providers and their patients, learning the vital importance of client confidentiality, and understanding the impact of political movement strategy and management of press and public messaging. For litigation matters, students work in small teams representing reproductive health care providers and/or patients in cases being handled by attorneys at national organizations. Students also have the opportunity to develop non-litigation skills by undertaking non-litigation matters involving legislative and regulatory work, public education, and strategic planning, at the federal, state, and local level. Instructors for the clinic are Clinical Lecturer in Law Priscilla Smith ’91 and Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law Katherine Kraschel.

“It is exciting to work with students who are so passionate about these issues and excited to put their new skills to the test in the rough and tumble political world of reproductive health,” said Smith. “In the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, students are gaining practical litigation and advocacy skills and learning political movement strategy in an area they are passionate about.”

The Rule of Law Clinic is the final new clinic to launch this semester. It focuses on maintaining U.S. rule of law and human rights commitments in four areas: national security (e.g., torture, drones, Guantanamo); antidiscrimination (especially against religious and ethnic groups); climate change (maintaining U.S. commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement); and democracy promotion (voting rights, redistricting). Projects include litigation, policy advocacy, and strategic planning matters. The instructors are Sterling Professor of International Law Harold Hongju Koh, Wishnie, Metcalf, and Visiting Lecturer in law Phil Spector ’00.

“Eternal vigilance, they say, is the price of liberty,” said Professor Koh. “Since 1990, Yale Law School has had a clinic to challenge threats to the rule of law, even when they are posed by our own government. That clinic has sued for refugee rights and civil liberties after 9/11 against both Democratic and Republican administrations. The new Rule of Law Clinic is today's incarnation.”

The six new clinics launching this semester are part of an expanding list of clinics at the Law School. At the start of the academic year, two other clinics launched for the first time, including the Challenging Mass Incarceration Clinic and the Open Government and Open Data Governance Innovation Clinic.

For a full list of all the clinics offered currently at Yale Law School, visit the clinic website.