Learning Through Service
Western New England University School of Law clinics and externships place students on the front lines in the struggle for justice. Whether helping a proprietor establish a small business, representing a tenant fighting an eviction proceeding, asserting a consumer’s rights and remedies, or protecting a victim of domestic violence, this firsthand experience will provide you with legal training, personal satisfaction, and professional growth.
The Experience Advantage
Our experiential learning offerings allows you to:
• Learn real-life lawyering in a professional setting
• Gain practical knowledge and develop professional skills and values
• Work under the supervision of experienced practitioners and a faculty member
• Establish connections with practicing attorneys
• Build a résumé of real legal experience and gain insight into areas of law that interest you
Translating Theory into Practice
One of the keys to becoming a successful lawyer is experience. The Western New England University School of Law offers students a wide variety of options to gain firsthand experience working with clients, writing legal documents, conducting research, and litigating cases. Through the seven Law Clinics/Practicums and over 60 Judicial and Public Interest Externship placements offered by the School, students gain the opportunity to put into practice all of these skills and more.
Clinical Legal Practice Opportunities
Criminal Defense Practicum
Students work as student defense attorneys at either the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) or with Bar Advocates, representing indigent clients within the Hampden and Hampshire County District Courts, which includes a mix of both misdemeanors and felonies.
Criminal Prosecution Clinic
Students prosecute real cases for the Hampden County District Attorney’s Office. Under the direction of an experienced Assistant District Attorney, students research, prepare, and litigate actual cases from the Hampden County Court System. This clinic gives students a firsthand look at each aspect of the trial process.
Family Defense Practicum
Students work in the Children and Family Law (CAFL) division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) providing legal representation to both children and indigent parents in family regulation cases, including care and protection proceedings, actions to terminate parental rights, guardianship-of-a-minor cases, and any other child custody proceeding where the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is a party or where the court is considering granting custody to DCF.
Family Law MEDIATION CLINIC
Students mediate family law cases at the Hampden Probate and Family Court. The clinic includes observing and learning the court process, and involvement in the screening process in conjunction with the mediation and training.
Global Justice Clinic
Students work collaboratively with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, grass-roots organizations, solidarity networks, attorneys, stakeholders, and other institutions engaging in human rights work to advance political, economic, social, and cultural human rights across borders.
Legal Aid Clinic/General Civil Practice Units
Legal Aid Clinic students are placed at Community Legal Aid (CLA), a private, non-profit organization that provides civil legal assistance to poor people and elders. While the Legal Aid Clinic allows students to learn about the real practice of law, it also gives them the opportunity to engage in community service by providing essential legal services to those in need.
General Civil Practice Units include:
- Housing Unit (focuses mostly on providing eviction defense),
- Disability and Education Unit (primarily helping with social security disability and SSI appeals and legal issues relating to access to an appropriate education)
- Employment Law (primarily unemployment compensation appeals)
- Benefits Unit (representation of low income people in obtaining TAFDC benefits, or EAEDC disability benefits, shelter, or other public benefits programs)
- Elder Law
- Family Law, primarily assisting victims of domestic violence and child support cases
- Veterans Project (affiliated with the VA Hospital in Leeds, handles a wide assortment of civil legal issues presented by low income veterans with a special emphasis in upgrading a less than honorable service discharge)
LEGAL AID CLINIC/Immigration Unit
Students in the Legal Aid Clinic/Immigration Unit work at the office of the Central West Justice Center (CWJC), a subsidiary of Community Legal Aid.
Students work on humanitarian immigration cases, including applications for asylum for individuals fleeing persecution, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for abused, neglected, and abandoned children, relief under the Violence Against Women Act for survivors of domestic violence, and U visas for crime victims. Students also interview clients and witnesses, prepare affidavits, assist in gathering documentary evidence, and research and write legal memoranda. Students may also conduct intake interviews with clients at community clinics.
Real Estate Practicum
Students are placed with practicing lawyers and title insurance companies to learn the ins and outs of real estate practice. Students work on matters involving deed descriptions and title searches, closings, zoning issues, condominium documents, appraisals, leases, and mortgages.
Small Business Clinic
Students provide legal services to local small businesses. Law students work on start-up transactional legal matters, including choice-of-entity, employment policies, contract drafting, regulatory compliance, and intellectual property issues. The clinic acts as a catalyst for economic development in western Massachusetts.
Judicial, Public Interest, Government, and Private Sector Opportunities
Externships allow students to work directly with judges or alongside attorneys in public interest organizations, government agencies, and law firms. Externs conduct research, prepare legal documents, and apply other lawyering skills. Externships also provide excellent exposure to professionals who can offer both advice and career insights.
Moot Court Competitions
Teams from Western New England have distinguished themselves in national competitions
Western New England University School of Law offers numerous opportunities for students to hone their professional lawyering skills through legal competitions. Through various inter-law school and intramural moot court teams students have ample opportunity to add valuable experiences to their law school education.
Simulations and Specialized Skills Courses
In-House Practical Skills Offerings
Western New England School of Law offers a number of courses that help students learn by engaging in simulations of the kind of real-world lawyering that normally takes place outside of the classroom. These courses teach oral argument skills, negotiation skills, mediation skills, transactional and litigation drafting skills, problem solving, and much more.
Simulation courses are offered in the areas of trial methods, negotiation, arbitration, mediation, business, bankruptcy, tax, and real estate.
Pro Bono Opportunities
Western New England University School of Law has a long tradition of service in Springfield and surrounding communities. In order to graduate, students must complete 20 hours of pro bono service. The Pro Bono program allows students to provide legal services to underrepresented community members while honing their own legal skills.
Students hired by local firms
Since our inception as Springfield-Northeastern in 1919, which subsequently became Western New England University, local employers have actively recruited students for part-time employment from our School of Law. Working part-time allows students to continue to develop their lawyering skills as well as providing experience for their resume.
What our students say about their experiential education
Students continually refer to their clinic and externship experiences as the "best part of law school".
Class of 2021
"By being in the criminal prosecution clinic my confidence level both in and out of the courtroom grew substantially. I feel comfortable standing up in court, talking to a judge, and being able to try an entire case. As a graduating 3L, I feel prepared to go into the legal field knowing I have all this knowledge and experience already in my toolbox. I could not have received a better experience."
Class of 2021
"The small business clinic is like no other law school class. As a clinician I was able to help local entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. The small business clinic allowed me to help real clients solve real problems while still in school. The skills I obtained will stay with me far past law school."
Class of 2020
During my time as a student, I had the great fortune of participating in two clinics. The International Human Rights Clinic afforded me the opportunity to work on unique projects that would never come up in a regular classroom setting, such as writing a script for an informational video. The Community Legal Aid Clinic allowed me to interact one-on-one with clients and perform many common law firm tasks. The varied projects helped me improve my persuasive writing and client interviewing skills and exposed me to many new resources used by firms. The experience I gained was invaluable and I strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of this experiential learning option.
Class of 2020
"Hands-on learning works best for me, so I knew participating in the Criminal Defense Practicum was the right choice to get the best out of my law school experience. I took many classes pertaining to Criminal Law during my time at Western New England University School of Law. Although my classes were great and my professors were extremely knowledgeable, I learned the most about how the Criminal Law system works from the lens of real-time lawyering as a Criminal Defense attorney through the practicum. I am so glad that I prioritized experiential learning during my time in law school as it has been incredibly rewarding and will set me apart when I enter the workforce."
Class of 2019
"Working with clients at my externship for the Committee for Public Counsel Services provided so much insight into larger social problems and the human condition. The overwhelming majority of my clients suffered from substance abuse disorders and/or mental illness, lacked opportunities to pursue an education, or experienced significant economic hardship. My supervisor routinely pointed out that our clients are humans with flaws, and are always worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. I hope to carry that perspective with me throughout my career."
Class of 2019
"I would recommend the Externship Program to anyone who wants to get practical experience of being a lawyer. I was able to gain massive litigation experience in court and utilize every bit of my 3:03 student practice certification by learning to write motions and prep cases. I learned almost every facet of the Care and Protection legal process and I developed soft skills of communicating with lawyers, social workers, and families. There is no question that this externship made me a better lawyer and a better person."
Class of 2019
"The Criminal Defense Practicum created the Criminal Lawyer in me. The practicum established my 3:03 student practice certification which allowed me to appear before criminal proceedings. The 3:03 certification for law students is comparable to a medical student's residency. I interviewed clients in lock up, conducted bail arguments, alternative bail hearings, arraignments, pre-trial conferences, and trial readiness procedures. I also prepared memorandums, argued with opposing counsel, and negotiated with judges. It was the experiential learning that helped me fully understand the entire law school curriculum."
Class of 2017 Engineering/Law Program
“My externship at Baystate Medical Center exposed me to the inner workings of a hospital in a way that I could not have known simply by sitting in a classroom. In addition to learning what the Risk Management department does, I have also been able to research and learn about a variety of healthcare issues as well as help review and edit hospital policies. I believe this experience will be a great stepping stone for me in pursuing a career in healthcare law.”
Class of 2016
“The value of an externship isn’t about finding your dream job; it’s about making yourself marketable through experience. I externed for Judge Fields at the Massachusetts Housing Court, interned at UTC Aerospace Systems, and was a student attorney in the Criminal Law Clinic. Each experience provided me a unique insight into different areas of law that the classroom couldn't.”
Class of 2015
"The International Human Rights Clinic was an amazing experience and allowed me to gain hands-on experience. I had the privilege of working with Professor Carasik on a land rights manual for the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women and assisting in research for an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Vieques petition."