By Morgan Franklin, J.D. ’17
This semester I have the good fortune of participating in HLS’s Semester in Washington Clinic, a program that provides students with the chance to work in an office in DC while taking a course in government lawyering and policy creation. I was initially attracted to the clinic because I’m rather interested in the political process and, perhaps even more so, the development of public policy. Though in traditional classes I appreciated discussing the intricacies of current law, the conversations I enjoyed most were those that encouraged students to offer recommendations and policy prescriptions, inviting us to consider shaping the law instead of just interpreting it. I applied to the clinic because I wanted to have a better understanding of the inner workings of government and the competing imperatives operating upon policy makers. Additionally, I wanted the opportunity to think deeply about how a legal education can inform an attorney’s engagement with policy.
With regard to the actual experience of the clinic, there are two principle components, each student’s office placement and the course on government lawyering and policy. As for my placement, I feel extremely lucky to be working for Congressman Jamie Raskin (HLS ’87) who represents Maryland’s Eighth Congressional District. I applied to Mr. Raskin’s office because I wanted to spend my last semester in law school working for someone championing causes in which I believe and helping to hold the line on issues such as civil rights protections and economic opportunity for marginalized communities. Additionally, I appreciate his example of using the training and privilege associated with his law degree to make a difference in his community. While working in his office I’ve had the opportunity to complete legal and policy research, engage with his constituents in various contexts, and support his staff as they serve the citizens of his district. In doing this work I am gaining a better understanding of the difficult undertaking of making and sustaining law and policy.
With respect to the course on government lawyering, Professor Wroblewski’s focus on legal and professional ethics, the indispensable nature of our governing institutions, and practical concerns with creating viable policy guides our work. In addition to our course work we’ve been able to engage with the larger DC area, from pro bono work with a legal aid outfit to watching an oral argument at the Supreme Court to visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture. While all of this has been very informative, perhaps my favorite part of the course has been the community that has developed between the members of the clinic through our in depth conversations about the role of government in the lives of real people and the ways in which lawyers can have a positive impact on American life through policy creation.
Overall, this has been a fantastic opportunity so far and I’m excited for the weeks ahead. I’m grateful that this clinical program exists, as the shift from abstract theory to practical application of government lawyering has enhanced my education in a way I did not anticipate. What a way to end my law school experience!