This clinic acts as consultants and counsel to local activists and social entrepreneurs, applying community lawyering principles.

This clinic is ideal for students seeking a nonlitigation, community-engaged experience in which they can learn transferable leadership skills, regardless of whether they plan to practice in the public or private sector.

Student teams collaborate with activists and social entrepreneurs in the community —individuals, organizations, or coalitions — to help bring their ideas for change to fruition. Clinic projects typically support community members with some combination of the following: advising community organizations in creating a mission-appropriate legal structure, along with related legal/business advice; demystifying legal/regulatory regimes as applied to a community-based idea or problem; and helping local activists develop an action plan toward a goal, and build evidence to support their advocacy. The clinic prioritizes work that advances equity and/or supports members of marginalized communities. (Click on the enrollment form linked to the right to see past and planned projects.)

Prior knowledge of a subject matter area is not required to participate; students will be assigned to project teams based on both interest level and the diverse skills and experiences they bring to the table, and the clinic supports the teams with the additional resources they need to provide value to the client.

Aside from developing expertise in the subject matter of their clinic projects, students learn principles and ethics of authentic community engagement and client-centered advising, cornerstones of community lawyering. They also learn techniques borrowed from business consulting, design thinking, public health, and other disciplines as they define the problem, break it down into work streams, and build the evidence for potential solutions – while developing the art of team-based project management. And student teams regularly present their work to fellow clinic students, outside experts and community members, and their clients, cultivating their communication and presentation skills outside of traditional courtroom settings.

Each project culminates in a final presentation to the client, along with the supporting deliverables the team has developed. Some projects may take place in multiple stages over a series of semesters, in which case the initial project team will also identify priorities and next steps for future project teams (and students may elect to take the clinic an additional semester to continue work for a client).

The clinic is available to new students in both the fall and the spring. Students participating in the fall may continue to the advanced clinic in the spring, depending on the availability of projects. Students should rank the clinic in the clinic lottery and once enrolled, submit the enrollment form linked to this page to help the clinic prioritize projects matching student interest and capacity.

To be considered for this clinic, students must rank the clinic in the clinic lottery within the timeline set by the Student Records Office. Students selected for the clinic through the clinic application/lottery process will be automatically enrolled prior to the regular course lottery.

The positions that the clinic takes on behalf of its clients are independent of the views of the University of Virginia or the School of Law.

Sarah Shalf
Professor of Law, General Faculty
Director of Clinical Programs
Skills Taught
Structured, team-based problem-solving; assessing both legal and nonlegal regimes and solutions; working collaboratively with clients and stakeholders; other professional skills, such as communication and team/meeting management, planning and staging work
Course Credits
4 (3 for advanced clinic in spring)