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Clinic Procedures

A transactional clinic is often one practice group in a larger clinical law firm. As such, it must often coordinate its practices, policies, and procedures with that of the larger firm. Depending on the size of the clinical program at one’s school and the bureaucratic tendencies of those involved, this can involve significant time and effort before getting a specific clinic operational. In addition to the larger firm procedures, a clinic may want to initiate its own, that relate to how it wants to produce work for its clients.

The primary purpose of implementing uniform policies, practices, and procedures is to bring uniformity and professionalism to the aggregate work being done by the many students that cycle through a clinic. One can imagine how inconsistent and unprofessional it would look if a client received numerous letters from its lawyers with each one written in a different font, with different formatting, and sent on random letterhead (or no letterhead at all). Another important purpose for establishing procedures is to implement a system that allows supervising attorneys to regulate the output of students. In other words, to make sure law is not being practiced without a license.

Many clinics produce a “clinic manual” that codifies all of its policies, practices, and procedures and acts as a resource for students through the course of their time in a clinic. Some of operational matters that clinics address in manuals are:

  • Access to shared/networked computer drives
  • Client communications (phone calls, email correspondence, regular mail)
  • File creation and maintenance
  • Conflict checks
  • Travel reimbursement
  • Copying and faxing procedures
  • Same day or overnight courier delivery process
  • Reserving conference rooms
  • Time keeping

Samples of clinic Manuals are posted in this section.

Though a manual may appear like a great idea on its surface, it’s important to note that the reality of its use may belie the point of its existence. Students are quick to ask a question and slow to refer to a manual. If the actual practice in a clinic is one where students learn procedures by asking questions of the staff or faculty, then the robustness of a manual may be more of an academic exercise. The use of a manual is highly dependent on the staff and faculty enforcing the requirement that students know the material that is included in it. That means not answering the simple questions even if it’s easier for the faculty supervisor. It also means that the manual may be used more as a reference and consulted as needed. Therefore, one may want to organize it in such a way that students can easily access the information they are looking for. With the increased advent of intranet technology, creating and posting an electronic version of the manual with hyperlinked contents could prove useful.

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