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January 16, 2008

Tuition-Free Law School for Activists? Am I Dreaming? No. It's Real.

It's not a dream.  It's not a fantasy.  At first blush this may be no different then full boat scholarships at other law schools, but this one really does smell different.  Scholarship at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, D.C. is based upon your commitment to advocacy and justice and has a highly diverse student body including ethnicity, age, and real-world experience.  It is clinic-centered and filled with practicing attorneys.

As most of you likely know well, many would-be public interest legal careers founder on the sharp rocks of law school debt. Pressed to pay back huge loans, many talented law graduates opt for the highest available paycheck. And, seeing this dynamic, many other talented POTENTIAL law students, who are committed to the fight for justice, are deterred from even seeking a legal education.

To address this dilemna, the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC-DCSL) has embarked upon an ambitious plan to raise sufficient funds to offer up to TWENTY FULL THREE-YEAR SCHOLARSHIPS to top students whose records reflect deep commitment to justice. Thanks to the generosity of our friends and alumni, we are able to begin this Advocate for Justice Scholarship this fall!

UDC-DCSL is a new, fully ABA accredited public interest law school in Washington, DC. The most race, ethnic and age-diverse law schools in America, it requires, by far, the largest amount of hands-on clinical work for poor people and the public interest. This means that at UDC-DCSL, rather than "checking one's values at the door" while studying law, all students provide high-quality legal service to low-income people and public interest causes under the watchful eye of experienced attorney-professors. Rated in the top ten in four categories by Princeton Review two years running - with the nation's most progressive student body two years in a row - UDC-DCSL is a fabulous choice for those advocates for justice who know they would employ a law degree in the public interest.


One Current Student's View:

"Also, for what it's worth, some things that I (having been to another law school) think are great about our school:

- The non-competitive atmosphere, camaraderie, etc. (which is, I think, related to our size & mission)
- The ability to form relationships with professors (ditto)
- That everyone gets to participate in clinic (whether they like it or not!)
- The fact that many professors still practice (so that clients are still real people to them)
- The number of students from working class backgrounds and/or progressive students and/or students of color
- The school's community-based mission and the fact that it's actually put into action
- The fact that I don't have to say "I'll only have to practice in a firm for a decade (to pay off my loans) before I can start doing public interest work" and then wonder if I'm going to have to spend ten years after that simply working to undo the damage I just did."

If you have a serious interest in public interest law, this may be a very real option for you to get your legal education at a school which shows its commitment to public interest advocacy based upon its core curriculum.  And if you believe, as many do, that legal education costs have gotten out of hand and the only way you can follow your dreams is to do so without the heavy burden of law school debt, this may be a real option for you.  Check it out.


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Do you know about New College School of Law? Has a reasonable tuition and a similar curriculum to the one you are describing. Here:


I graduated there in 2006 - I thought it was great. It is small, and does not have a lot of bells and whistles (certainly compared to the other D.C. law schools), but the teachers are excellent and committed.

And the required clinics give students actual legal experience - something that is helping me start out on my own.

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