The University of Kansas School of Law provides students with 13 clinical opportunities. As a nontraditional law student, I find that the clinical opportunities are my favorite experiences at the law school. Over the past three years, I have participated in the Public Policy Clinic, the Externship Clinic, and the Legislative Clinic. Each of these clinical opportunities provided me with a practical and useful experience.
In the Public Policy Clinic, students select a legislative topic requested by a Kansas legislator. These topics are issues that will be relevant in the approaching legislative session. The student does extensive research, typically providing a legislative report on what other states are doing on similar issues. My topic was school bus advertising. I compiled a list of the statutory language from all the states that have started allowing school districts to sell advertising space on the interior and exterior of school buses. It was an interesting issue and proved very useful knowledge the following summer.
The summer of my 2L year, I took advantage of KU Law’s Externship Clinic opportunity. I accepted a legislative internship at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) for the summer, but because it was a nonprofit entity, I needed to do the internship for credit. That’s where the Externship Clinic is useful. I was able to obtain six credit hours for my time interning over the summer in Denver. At NCSL, the issues I worked on included transportation, and environmental and veterans affairs. State legislators from across the country would contact NCSL with information requests on what other state legislatures were considering on particular issue areas. I was able to use the research skills I learned in the Public Policy Clinic to provide informative answers. Also, as I mentioned, my clinic paper was useful because NCSL asked me to write a transportation review on school bus safety. I had submitted my paper on school bus advertising as my writing sample, and they wanted me to expand the paper into all legislative happenings dealing with school bus safety. I was able to build upon the research I had already done, and NCSL published my article. The Externship Clinic provided me the opportunity to work at a place that was not able to pay me, but provided me with the exact experience I sought. I would highly encourage all law students to take advantage of the clinic and spend their summer doing something they love!
This spring I am participating in the Legislative Clinic. Again, I love the experience. I really want a career in the policy and legislative field, and this clinic provides an opportunity to delve into the middle of the process. I am interning for the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Statehouse in Topeka. I spend at least two days a week there, and every day is full of new and exciting legislation and hearings. It has been a wonderful experience to see firsthand the process of proposed bills becoming law. This particular experience has helped me narrow my job search as a 3L: It confirmed for me that I want a career working with policy on an everyday basis, and I have focused my search.
With so many clinical opportunities at KU Law, every student has a chance to participate in at least one clinic. Some students are intimidated or nervous about leaving the structured classroom setting, but I would highly encourage everyone to take advantage of these amazing opportunities. Nothing you learn in a classroom will make you quite as marketable as the experiences you gain from working in a clinic. Success in a clinic provides students with confidence and assures future employers that the graduate they hire has the practical skills they want in a candidate.
— Crystal Cook is a third-year law student and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
Labels: clinics, experiential learning, externships, legislation, practical experience, public policy