69% of RWU Law 1L students come from outside of Rhode Island. There are 22 states represented in the Class of 2015 alone.
As the only law school in Rhode Island, RWU Law students get invaluable real world experience while still in law school. Beyond an institution-wide commitment to experiential learning, our students reap the benefits of being the only school in the state, which guarantees access to plum opportunities in the state and federal government as well as with a broad range of non-profit groups. RWU is committed to making sure that each of our graduates has the chance to apply his or her burgeoning legal skills while still a student. This commitment is manifest in many ways, including a requirement that a graduating student must have successfully completed at least two upper-level skills classes and 50 hours of pro bono legal work under the supervision of a licensed attorney. But beyond these requirements, the law school offers many opportunities to actually apply the legal principles and skills that its students are learning.
In the Roger Williams University Criminal Defense Clinic, students represent actual criminal defense clients under the supervision of a full-time faculty member. Students are responsible for interviewing clients, investigating their cases, counseling clients, negotiating the cases with prosecutors, appearing before judges and, when the case demands it, actually trying the case. The experience helps students apply what they have learned in law school as they make the transition from studying law to practicing law.
In the Roger Williams University Immigration Clinic, students represent actual clients who have legal issues related to their noncitizen legal status in the United States. Students represent clients before the Immigration Court in Boston who are seeking relief from deportation, often raising asylum claims and seeking relief for victims of domestic violence. Students also prepare applications for benefits under the immigration laws and represent noncitizens in their interviews for such benefits before the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. The experience helps students apply what they have learned in law school as they make the transition from studying law to practicing law.
Society and the courts are increasingly turning to mediation as a preferred process for dispute resolution. Roger Williams’ law graduates who participated in the Mediation Clinic will have a distinct advantage when their cases wind up in mediation. Clinic students receive extensive mediation training and then mediate dozens of actual Family Court and other civil cases under the supervision of the clinic director during their intensive semester in the Mediation Clinic.
Community Economic Development Clinic
The Roger Williams University Community Economic Development Clinic, our newest clinical offering, is scheduled to open in the fall semester of 2013. The focus of the clinic will be to provide services to small, low-income and start-up businesses and not-for-profit organizations in Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts. Students enrolled in the clinic will work with small business owners in determining and facilitating their legal needs. This will include selecting the best legal entity, assisting with the filing of organizational documents, creating agreements, and drafting leases and other contracts. The primary goal of the clinic will be to teach the practice of transactional lawyering while providing service to under-served entrepreneurs and organizations.
Through our Public Interest Clinical Externship Program, students earn academic credit while working two to three days per week in a variety of non-profit or government settings. Students are eligible to appear in court as student attorneys in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and gain valuable hands-on experience representing low-income clients through civil legal services programs or public defender offices, advocating on behalf of the government in a variety of local or state agencies, or learning about policy development by working in local non-profit organizations. Students participate in a weekly seminar with classmates in a variety of different legal settings.
Through our Judicial Clinical Externship Program, students have the opportunity to work with federal and state judges in both trial and appellate courts. Our students work directly with judges and are given assignments that are comparable to full-time law clerks from the most prestigious law schools. Our students learn first-hand about litigation by learning what is persuasive to the court and how to interact with the judiciary. These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities create enduring mentoring relationships and valuable lawyering lessons that last a lifetime. Students participate in a weekly seminar taught by a federal district court judge.
In-House Counsel Clinical Externship Program
Through our In-House Counsel Clinical Externship Program, students earn academic credit while working two to three days per week in the in-house corporate offices of prominent for-profit corporations in and around Rhode Island and southern New England. Student externs will be exposed to the various ways in which law is practiced in-house and for corporate clients, gaining hands-on experience working side-by-side with some of the region’s leading corporate attorneys. Students attend a two-hour weekly graded seminar to teach the doctrine, ethics, and legal skills required in an in-house corporate counsel placement.
Prosecution Clinical Externship Program
Through our Prosecution Clinical Externship Program, students earn academic credit while working two to three days per week in a prosecution office on the federal, state or municipal level. Students are eligible to appear in court as student attorneys in federal and state courts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Students gain valuable hands-on experience representing the government in criminal prosecutions. Students participate in a weekly seminar with classmates who are working in a variety of prosecutorial settings.
Environmental and Land Use Law Clinical Externship Program
Through the Environmental and Land Use Law Clinical Externship, students train in legal offices or departments of government agencies and non-government organizations doing environmental and land use legal work in Rhode Island and southern New England. Externs are exposed to the various ways in which environmental and land use law is practiced by government agencies and non-government organizations through litigation, administrative rulemaking and adjudication, and engagement in the legislative process. The students also participate in a two-credit, graded seminar “Advanced Topics in Environmental and Land Use Law” that will be designed by the professor, after consultation with the field supervisors, to teach substantive law, regulation, and policy directly relevant to the students’ field work, as well as the ethics and legal skills required of an environmental attorney.
The Marine Affairs Institute (MAI) at RWU Law is home to one of only four Sea Grant Legal Programs in the nation. Every semester, the MAI Fellows research real-world, important, timely questions of marine law and policy raised by organizations in and beyond Rhode Island. This provides valuable hands-on experience while still in law school and under the supervision of the MAI staff attorney, not only helps a client but yields a high-quality writing sample that is published while still in law school.
All law students engage in at least 50 hours of law related public service during law school. The public service requirement allows RWU law students to serve the community and expand access to justice to those unable to pay while also teaching students valuable legal skills and offering networking opportunities with practicing lawyers. The Feinstein Institute for Legal Service offers students a wide range of opportunities to fulfill their public service requirement and to make a difference in the community.
Each year, the law school funds 25-30 students to work in public interest jobs over the summer. The law school contributes $60,000 in addition to funds raised by a lively public interest auction each February. Students receive funding to work all over the country, and often abroad, representing indigent clients in need of representation. Past summer stipend recipients have worked in Ghana, Nepal, Alaska, Alabama, and Mississippi, in addition to many settings in and around Rhode Island.
The Pro Bono Collaborative (PBC) is a unique experiential learning model that mobilizes law firms, law students, and community service providers to bring a wide range of legal services to community organizations and their low-income clients. Some projects involve direct assistance to individuals and some are transactional projects providing legal assistance to organizations that serve these families.
We also have legislative advocacy and non-profit health projects. Each PBC project partnership includes one or more law firm attorneys, at least one RWU Law student to support the work of the attorney(s) and the CBO staff.
Hands-On Learning in the Classroom
- Federal Practice/Federal Litigation
In this upper-level course, students handle a simulated federal case through all stages of litigation, starting from the filing of a complaint and proceeding all the way through to trial. The course, which involves significant role-playing exercises and extensive critique, is co-taught by a seasoned federal litigator, a full-time member of the faculty, and United States District Court Judge William E. Smith.
- Advanced Trial Advocacy: Complex Personal Injury
In this upper level course, a seasoned personal injury lawyer who has handled much of the highest-profile litigation in Rhode Island leads the students through an exploration of the litigation of a complex civil case. The course involves significant role-playing exercises and extensive critique.
- Mental Health Law: A Multidisciplinary Approach
This upper level course includes both law students and graduate students from Brown University who are studying forensic psychiatry and forensic psychology. Students in the course explore the boundaries between law and behavioral health. Through a series of role playing exercises, students get to experience various hearings related to mental health law, including a competency hearing, a civil commitment hearing, and a dangerousness hearing.
- Other Upper Level Legal Methods Courses
Each student at Roger Williams University School of Law is required to take at least two courses from a menu of upper level legal methods courses. Rather than focus on teaching a doctrinal area of the law, these courses aim to teach particular sets of legal skills required for the practice of law. They are taught in very small sections, providing an environment for extensive simulation, role play and feedback from the faculty member. Offerings include courses in litigation skills, communication skills, transactional practice skills, and legal drafting skills.