Rule 48 of the D.C. Court of Appeals Rules allows law students to engage in the limited practice of law in D.C. on behalf of indigent persons as part of a clinical program so long as the court or administrative tribunal permits the appearance.
A “clinical program” is limited to a law school program for credit, held under the discretion of a faculty member of such law school, in which a law student obtains practical experience in the operation of the D.C. legal system by participating in cases and matters pending before the courts or administrative tribunals.
Requirements and Limitations
The law student intern must:
- Be enrolled in an ABA approved law school and the D.C. Admissions Committee.
- Have successfully completed legal studies amounting to at least 41 semester hours (or the equivalent). This includes courses in evidence, criminal procedure, and civil procedure.
- Be certified by the law school Dean as being of good character and competent legal ability, and as being adequately trained to participate in cases or matters pending before the courts or administrative tribunals.
- Be certified by D.C. Admissions Committee as eligible to engage in the limited practice of law.
- Be registered with the D.C. Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.
Law students may practice law in pending matters before a D.C. court or administrative tribunal in connection with:
- Civil Matters. Any civil case or matter including family or juvenile proceedings. Representation must be on behalf of an indigent person and part of a law school clinical program. The client and supervising attorney must consent to the appearance in writing.
- Criminal Matters. Any criminal case or matter not involving a felony. Representation must be on behalf of an indigent person and part of a law school clinical program. The client and supervising attorney must consent to the appearance in writing.
The student attorney may represent the United States or the D.C. in any criminal matter with the written approval of the United States Attorney or the Corporation Counsel or their authorized representatives and the supervising attorney.
Law students may also engage in additional practice as part of the clinical program under the general supervision of the supervising attorney but outside his or her physical presence. This additional practice includes:
- Preparation of pleadings and other documents to be filed in any case or matter in which the law student is eligible to participate. The supervising attorney must sign the documents.
- Preparation of briefs, abstracts, and other documents to be filed in the appellate courts of D.C. The supervising attorney must sign the documents.
- Participating in an oral argument in the D.C. Court of Appeals in any appeal, which includes misdemeanor and felony cases. The supervising attorney must be present and the appellant’s written consent to the appearance and the supervising attorney’s written approval must be filed with the Clerk.
- Certify in writing that the student has read and is familiar with the rules of the court governing the D.C. Bar, including the ABA Code of Professional Responsibility, which constitutes the standard governing practice of law in D.C.
Attorneys cannot ask for nor receive a fee of any kind for any services provided under the student practice rules. The United States, D.C., any agency thereof, or the Public Defender Service may pay a law student employee a regular salary.
Requirements and Filings
The client and supervising attorney’s written consent must be filed in the record of the case. The Law School Dean Certificate are required to be filed with the court.
Each pleading, brief, or other document must contain the name of the eligible law student who has participated in drafting the document. If the student participated in drafting only a portion of the document, this fact must be mentioned.
The supervising attorney must:
- Be an active member of the D.C. Bar.
- Be an attorney whose services as a supervising attorney for the clinical program are approved by the law school Dean where the student is enrolled.
- Assume full responsibility for guiding the student’s work in any pending case or matter or other activity in which the student participates and for supervising the quality of that student’s work.
- Assist the student in preparation of the case to the extent necessary in the supervising lawyer’s professional judgment to insure that the student’s participation is effective on behalf of the indigent person represented.
The Law School Dean Certificate remains in effect for one year after it is filed or until the announcement of the results of the first bar exam given by the D.C. Admissions Committee following the student’s graduation, whichever is earlier. Certifications must be continued for any student who passes the D.C. bar exam until the student is either admitted or denied admission.
The Law School Dean Certificate may be withdrawn at any time by mailing a notice to the Clerk. The notice does not need to state the cause for withdrawal. The D.C. Court of Appeals may terminate the certificate at any time without notice or hearing and without showing of cause.