The Amicus Project at Southwestern is a first-of-its-kind professional outreach program, enabling law students to gain practical experience by preparing amicus—or "friend of the court"—briefs* on a pro bono basis for cases in which one is needed. A central component of the Amicus Project is the Amicus Project Practicum, a course that provides students with the opportunity to work individually on an amicus brief under the supervision of a law professor or practicing attorney. Professor Michael Epstein, director of the Amicus Project, and other members of the faculty will select the cases, which may arise out of any jurisdiction (the need for amicus briefs typically arises at the appellate level).
*NOTE: An amicus brief allows a person or entity that is not part of a case, but has an interest in the matter, to file a brief for the court to take into consideration.
Information for Southwestern Students
Students earn two units and the Amicus Project Practicum satisfies the professional skills requirement. They begin by attending an orientation on brief drafting, and then the amicus supervisor and the student work together to map out arguments, make a research plan, and determine the applicable procedural and filing requirements. The research and writing of the draft brief must be completed during a single semester, and once the amicus brief is completed, the amicus supervisor will have the option to sign and file the brief with the assistance of the student. If filed, the student will be given written credit within the brief, as permitted by court rules.
Interested students must apply to be considered for the Amicus Project Practicum and will be selected based on academic excellence and professional commitment. The practicum is open to full-time students who have completed their first year and part-time students who have completed their second year; it is geared toward those with a demonstrated interest in a specific area of the law, a strong academic record and proven writing ability. Students interested in the Amicus Project Practicum can find detailed course and application information at the MySWLAW portal (log-in required).
Submit a Case for Consideration
Case referrals for the Amicus Project are welcome and potential cases will be reviewed on an on-going basis for the following semester. Case selection is based on a variety of considerations, including legal significance, social significance, inquiry by an interested party (including students), jurisdiction, service to the profession, as well as faculty interest and expertise. To submit a case please fill out the Amicus Project Case Intake Form (PDF in sidebar).
The Amicus Project does not charge fees for its services. No one at Southwestern Law School, including faculty, staff and students, will bill an amicus client for their services. However, filing expenses and court fees are the responsibility of the amicus client. Under some circumstances, the Amicus Project may cover some or all of these costs.
Prospective amicus clients and others wishing to make a donation to the Amicus Project should click here (please select "Other" under "Gift Designation" and specify "Amicus Project"). Southwestern is a 501(c)(3) organization and gifts to the law school are tax deductible.
Become a Supervising Expert
Licensed attorneys who are experts in specific areas of law may apply to become supervisors for the Amicus Project. Interested attorneys must have a distinguished record of public service to the profession, and be willing to instruct and evaluate the student brief writer over the course of several months. Supervisors must also be admitted to the jurisdiction where a prospective amicus brief is to be filed or be willing to seek admission prior to the brief's filing deadline. Selection of all amicus supervisors is made at the discretion of the director of the Amicus Project. The appointment of supervisors who are not full-time or adjunct faculty at Southwestern is subject to additional approval by the Office of the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs.
The amicus supervisor will be given an opportunity to file the student writer's brief, once the supervisor and the project's director determine its professional quality. If the brief is filed, the amicus supervisor will agree to sign it "in association with the Amicus Project at Southwestern Law School," and will credit the student as its writer in the body of the brief, as permitted by court rules. Amicus supervisors are not paid by the Amicus Project, and they may not accept payment from a third party.
Those interested in shepherding a pro bono brief as an amicus supervisor should send a cover letter addressing the criteria above, a current resume and a list of jurisdictions to which they have been admitted. If applying to supervise a specific case, complete the Case Intake Form linked above, and reference the case in the cover letter. Materials should be sent to the contacts listed in the sidebar.