Legal clinics and practicums are for-credit courses in which a significant part of the learning involves students assuming the role of a lawyer representing actual clients, or performing other lawyering roles, under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
These opportunities allow students to develop a wide-range of skills, including:
- Hands-on legal experience interviewing, counseling, and advising clients
- Conducting legal writing and research
- Legal drafting
- Court presentation
Law clinic and practicum courses include a classroom seminar that may address substantive or procedural areas of law, ethical rules, lawyering skills, and theory.
Second-year and third-year students may participate in legal clinics and practicums during the academic year, as well as during the summer. These credits count toward completion of the experiential learning requirement for graduation.
Clinic and practicum opportunities afford students extremely valuable opportunities to serve the community.
Students may receive no more than a maximum of 12 total clinic/practicum credits and may not enroll in the same clinic/practicum for more than two semesters or for more than one summer or one semester. Students may not enroll in multiple clinics, practica, or externships during the same semester. Students may receive no more than 15 total combined experiential credits.
Students who would like to enroll and participate in a clinic/practicum should complete the USD Law Clinic/Practicum Application.
Low Income Taxpayer Clinic
Students enrolled in the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) receive a student attorney designation from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tax Court. This designation permits students to represent low-income taxpayers in tax controversies before the IRS, IRS appeals, and the IRS tax court.
This clinic serves the community by representing taxpayers who are unable to afford legal representation in federal income disputes with the IRS. Services may include:
- Assisting with an audit or helping to obtain an audit reconsideration
- Filing a U.S. tax court petition or appearing in U.S. tax court the client’s behalf
- Preparing a settlement offer to settle a tax debt
- Requesting a pause in collections
- Helping to set up affordable payment plans with the IRS
- Disputing employment tax classification status
The LITC does not require prior IRS experience or training. However, students must complete or be concurrently enrolled in Federal Income Taxation.
The LITC requires a classroom component.
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) is traditionally offered in the fall and spring semesters.
Professor Rebecca Stavish
Tax Practice and Skills Practicum
Students enrolled in the Tax Practice and Skills Practicum permits students to prepare tax returns for lower and moderate income taxpayers who have traditionally not filed returns. Prior to the practicum activity, students must successfully complete training and pass Internal Revenue Service (IRS) exam certifications. Students must pass several IRS exams to become certified as an advanced level Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) preparer.
Students work with the Alaska Business Development Center (ABDC) organization to assist taxpayers in Alaska. The trip traditionally occurs in February of the spring semester.
To participate, students must
- Have completed the fall Low Income Taxpayer course;
- Be enrolled in the spring Low Income Taxpayer course;
- Have completed Federal Income Taxation course; and
- Be an enrolled agent (EA) or certified public accountant (CPA) prior to this course
Professor Rebecca Stavish
Criminal Defense Practicum
The Criminal Defense Practicum, a partnership with the Minnehaha County Public Defender’s Office, affords students an opportunity to work sibe-by-side with public defenders in Minnehaha County South Dakota. Through the practicum students will gain a practical understanding of the importance of ensuring justice, fairness, and fulfillment of the legal profession’s responsibility to provide adequate legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. The practicum empowers students to improve their lawyering skills through advocacy.
- Students develop fact investigation, witness interviewing, and case evaluation skills
- Students develop trial advocacy skills
- Students identify, analyze, and apply relevant criminal law, case law, and local rules and procedures
- Students develop and improve client management and interviewing skills
- Students develop and apply an understanding of the various ethical responsibilities as representatives for their clients
- Students identify and respect diverse perspectives and backgrounds that may impact their work as professional advocates within the criminal justice system
- Students hone their research and writing abilities
The Criminal Defense Practicum requires a classroom component.
The Criminal Defense Practicum is traditionally offered in the fall semester.
Innocence Project Practicum
The Innocence Project Practicum, a partnership with the Great North Innocence Project, affords students with hands-on experience assisting with the screening, investigation, and litigation of post-conviction cases in state and federal court. The Great North Innocence Project provides post-conviction representation for incarcerated individuals claiming to have been wrongfully convicted of crimes in state or federal court in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota.
This practicum affords students the opportunity to assist with factual development directed toward uncovering new evidence of innocence, including witness interviews, review of court records and legal documents, consulting with experts, and identifying physical evidence. Students also assist with researching and developing legal theories directed toward post-conviction litigation. In some instances (depending on the stage of a given case), students may assist with drafting briefs and other legal documents in connection with litigation.
The Innocence Project Practicum requires a classroom component.
The Innocence Project Practicum is traditionally offered in the fall semester.
The WORKS Practicum provides 2L and 3L law students training in the areas of family law, alternative dispute resolution, and client relations. Based on training, students are permitted to assist with the WORKS Clinic. The WORKS CLINIC is a free service to qualifying individuals. It helps self-represented couples and families within South Dakota through the divorce process through assistance with necessary forms and mediation. The WORKS Clinic assists eligible self-represented litigants to achieve access to courts and conclude divorce and custody proceedings efficiently and Improves congestion of court calendars, which allows judges time to focus on cases and controversies that require judicial resolution.
The WORKS Practicum requires a classroom component.
The WORKS Practicum is traditionally offered in the fall and spring semesters.
WORKS Clinic Website: https://www.worksclinic.com
South Dakota State Bar Newsletter Feature by 3L Student Promise Costello (pg. 24): https://www.statebarofsouthdakota.com/assets/pdf/December/
Professor Marilyn Trefz
Tribal Wills Practicum
The Tribal Wills Practicum offers a unique student opportunity to draft, revise, and oversee the execution of a comprehensive estate plan for pro bono clients on one of South Dakota’s nine Indian Reservations. Students learn how to review and oversee representation agreements, interview clients, draft complex documents, and supervise the proper execution of the various documents under the formalities demanded by law. Students also gain familiarity with the American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA) and division of interest on Indian trust land.
The Tribal Wills Practicum also requires a classroom component.
The Tribal Wills Practicum is traditionally offered in the fall and spring semesters.
Professor Tom Simmons