First survey of FELN clinic members highlights subject matter focus, funding, biggest challenges

The number of law school clinics working on free speech, free press or government transparency issues (or a combination thereof) has continued to grow since FELN officially launched in 2019. The network — formed to help members collaborate and share resources to expand their impact — now numbers 32 clinics or similar organizations, plus two dozen law professors who do research and pro bono work in the space.

To better understand that membership, FELN circulated its first full clinics survey in the final three months of 2021. The information below represents the responses to that survey, on topics ranging from substantive focus to diversity initiatives to funding. A copy of the survey is available here.

As of publication, 23 of the 32 clinic members have responded. Most respondents are structured as traditional clinics at law schools, though two are other university-affiliated organizations that work on matters with law students. We will use “clinics” as shorthand below for all respondents.

The full list of FELN members, with links to their websites, is available on the right-hand side of FELN’s homepage.

Clinic information

Total responses: 23

Year clinic was founded

Many FELN clinics are relatively new, with 10 that launched in 2018 or later:

The oldest clinic in the network is UVA, which launched in 1996. (It took a brief hiatus in 2017 before relaunching in 2019 in a partnership between UVA and the Reporters Committee.) Among the other respondents, the oldest clinics are generally tech-focused (Harvard, 1999; Berkeley, 2001; American, 2001; Colorado, 2007), and Yale’s access clinic, which started in 2009.

Substantive focus and clients

Primary substantive focus

FELN membership is not limited to those clinics working exclusively on free speech, free press or transparency issues; it also includes clinics that focus on other topics where their work overlaps with these issues. Among the respondents, their primary focus was:

  • First Amendment: 11 (48%)
  • IP/Technology: 6 (26%)
  • Government Transparency: 2 (9%)
  • Other: 4 (17%)


  • 14 clinics (61%) accept clients nationwide, though some might only do so for certain types of matters or might put a priority on a specific state or region
  • 9 clinics (39%) accept clients from only one or two states


Some clinics handle a variety of types of matters, while others focus predominantly on only one or two types. The following graph reflects the number of clinics working on each type of matter as related to free speech, free press or public records during the Fall 2021 semester. It then indicates the median percentage those matters take up on those clinics’ dockets.

Clinic Structure and Funding


  • 8 clinics (35%) require a full-year commitment
  • 8 clinics (35%) are for one semester/quarter with an option to continue
  • 6 clinics (26%) are for one semester/quarter

Number of credits per semester

Most respondents default to offering students either 4 credits per semester (9, 41%), 5 credits (4, 18%) or 6 credits (5, 23%). The remainder default to either 3 or 7 credits (2, 9% each).

More than half (12, 60%) do not give students any flexibility in the number of credits they receive. For those clinics that do provide flexibility, the credit offerings range from 1 to 8 credits, though 2 to 6 credits are more common than 1, 7 or 8 credits.

Number of students

The number of students enrolled per semester ranges from 6 to 30, with a median of 10. With some exceptions, generally the newer clinics have fewer students and the older clinics (which also are primarily tech-focused clinics) have more students.

Student selection

  • 12 clinics (52%) select students based on an application specific to the clinic
  • 7 clinics (30%) do not select particular students; students enroll without the clinic staff’s input
  • 4 clinics (17%) select students based on a general application shared among multiple clinics

Pedagogical components

(respondents could select multiple)

  • Weekly or biweekly class/seminar: 23 (100%)
  • Bootcamp-style session at the beginning of the year or semester: 14 (61%)
  • Weekly (or otherwise regular) case team meetings: 22 (96%)
  • Individual one-on-one meetings with students: 18 (78%)

Outside funding

Three-quarters of clinics (18, 78%) indicated they receive at least some outside funding. Among that group, it goes toward:

  • Staff salary: 17 (94%)
  • Staff supplements (conference travel, etc.): 12 (67%)
  • Litigation/case related costs: 13 (72%)
  • Communications/marketing: 8 (44%)
  • Administrative support (including administrator salaries): 8 (44%)

University funding

Almost three-quarters of clinics (16, 70%) indicated they receive at least some funding directly from the university. Among that group, it goes toward:

  • Staff salary: 12 (75%)
  • Staff supplements (conference travel, etc.): 10 (63%)
  • Litigation/case related costs: 7 (44%)
  • Communications/marketing: 9 (56%)
  • Administrative support (including administrator salaries): 13 (81%)

Staffing and Funding

More than half of clinics have a teaching staff of either 1 or 2 staff members. The remaining clinics have a staff of either 3, 5 or 6, with ICAP at Georgetown as the outlier with 10 or more.

A minority of clinics have at least one tenured or tenure-track staff (5, 22%) or at least one clinical faculty with similar status (9, 39%). Conversely, three-fourths (17, 74%) have at least one lecturer, instructor, adjunct professor or staff in a similar position that is not tenured or tenure-track. Roughly half have at least one legal fellow (11, 48%).

The funding picture for teaching staff positions is a mixed bag. More than a third of clinics’ positions are funded entirely by term-limited or outside “soft” funds (9, 39%), less than a third of clinics’ positions are funded entirely by the university (7, 30%), and the remaining clinics’ positions are funded by a combination of both. In all, almost 60% of the 60+ positions at the 23 clinics are funded by term-limited or outside “soft” funds.

See more staffing breakdowns at the end of this post.

Capacity, Diversity and FELN

Capacity to support journalists

With the varied focus of FELN clinics as discussed above, not all of them specifically market themselves to journalists. Even still, most clinics said they have had to turn away at least one journalist or news organization due to a lack of capacity in the past year, and more than a third indicated they have done so with some frequency:

  • At least once per week: 2 (9%)
  • Two or three times per month: 4 (17%)
  • Monthly or bimonthly: 3 (13%)
  • Rarely, perhaps one to five times per year: 9 (39%)
  • Never, we actively seek out journalists and news organizations for additional matters: 1 (4%)
  • Did not answer/other: 4 (17%)

Biggest challenges

The most commonly identified challenge facing clinics this academic year is COVID-19, which still brings a lot of issues ranging from practice logistics to enrollment levels to childcare for staff. The other two commonly identified challenges were (1) bandwidth — not having enough staff to meet all potential needs and/or current staff members being stretched thin; and (2) fundraising — needing to raise money to maintain current staffing levels.

Efforts to promote diversity in staff hiring, student admission and/or case selection

The approaches by clinics to promote diversity vary widely. In staff hiring and student admissions, some respondents noted that they were limited to or relied upon the resources of their university (and some clinics do not play any role in selecting their students). Some clinics do affirmative outreach to affinity groups and underrepresented communities both on campus and within the legal profession, which helps create a more diverse pipeline of students and hires. Multiple clinics also participate in the Initiative for a Representative First Amendment, which was launched by the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic and provides financial and career support for law students from underrepresented backgrounds and places them in an internship with a clinic.

When it comes to case selection, many clinics maintain relationships with community organizations and networks supporting underrepresented communities and journalists. Some examples include partnering with affinity journalism groups to provide legal training, hiring a consultant to promote services to diverse journalists, and proactively taking matters that promote the interests of underrepresented communities.

Client referral

96% indicated they would be interested in receiving referrals of potential clients or matters from FELN or other FELN members.


This survey is informative about the clinics landscape, and FELN will use the results as it continues to develop its programming and member resources in 2022. We also hope to make this an annual survey, so if there are additional things you would like to learn from the next survey, please let us know.


Additional Responses

Tenured or tenure-track faculty

  • 0 employees: 18 (78%)
  • 1 employee: 4 (17%)
  • 2 employees: 0
  • 3 employees: 1 (4%)

Clinical faculty with protection similar to tenure (or on track for such protection)

  • 0 employees: 14 (61%)
  • 1 employee: 8 (35%)
  • 2 employees: 0
  • 3 employees: 1 (4%)

Lecturer, instructor, adjunct professor, or similar position without security of position

  • 0 employees: 6 (26%)
  • 1 employee: 6 (26%)
  • 2 employees: 8 (35%)
  • 3 employees: 3 (13%)

Staff attorneys

  • 0 employees: 14 (61%)
  • 1 employee: 4 (17%)
  • 2 employees: 3 (13%)
  • 3 employees: 0
  • 4 employees: 1 (4%)
  • 5 employees: 0
  • 6 employees: 0
  • 7 employees: 0
  • 8 employees: 1 (4%)

Legal fellows

  • 0 employees: 12 (52%)
  • 1 employee: 9 (39%)
  • 2 employees: 2 (9%)

Number funded by university or other “hard” money

  • 0 employees: 9 (41%)
  • 1 employee: 7 (32%)
  • 2 employees: 3 (14%)
  • 3 employees: 2 (9%)
  • 4 employees: 0
  • 5 employees: 0
  • 6 employees: 1 (5%)

Number funded by term-limited funds or outside “soft” funds

  • 0 employees: 7 (32%)
  • 1 employee: 7 (32%)
  • 2 employees: 4 (18%)
  • 3 employees: 2 (9%)
  • 4 employees: 0
  • 5 employees: 1 (5%)
  • 6 employees: 0
  • 7 employees: 0
  • 8 employees: 0
  • 9 employees: 0
  • 10 or more employees: 1 (5%)

Resources for journalists covering protests

Note: This post was updated with additional resources on June 16, 2020.

With civil unrest occurring across the country, the Free Expression Legal Network is sharing a few resources for journalists — or for those FELN members who may be assisting journalists right now.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is investigating reports of more than 250 press freedom incidents, as of June 4, as reporters across the country have covered protests in response to a white Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd, a Black man, on May 25.

Some resources to help journalists cover and stay safe at protests:

Reporters Committee attorneys are also monitoring its legal hotline for journalists, in case reporters have questions about their legal rights at protests, or need help finding an attorney. There are three ways to reach the hotline: (1) online at, (2) by phone at 800-336-4243, or (3) by email at hotline -at- The Student Press Law Center also has a hotline for student journalists.

Newsletter: Clinics quickly pivot to online in response to COVID-19

This is the March 27, 2020, edition of the newsletter of the Free Expression Legal Network. It includes updates from our coalition of law school clinics and law professors working on free speech, free press and government accountability. Sign up to receive the newsletter here.

The world is a much different place since our last FELN newsletter. With universities shifting online and courts canceling or restricting in-person hearings in just a matter of weeks in response to the coronavirus, teleconferences and Zoom video conferences are suddenly ubiquitous.

Nicole Ligon, supervising attorney at the Duke First Amendment Clinic, said she has tried to keep the Duke clinic’s class as “normal” and engaging as possible since it went online using Zoom last week. She has also looked for ways to take advantage of the remote settings. “For a discussion on food libel and commercial speech,” Ligon said, “we had everyone pull a real food item with an interesting label from their pantry and used those labels in our discussion.”
Still, as Gautam Hans, director of the Vanderbilt First Amendment Clinictweeted after his clinic’s first online class, the effect on clinics is different than that on other, doctrinal classes. “[T]here is something about the learning process of working on cases that can’t be replicated in other parts of law school,” Hans said. “And, it turns out, it can’t really be replicated on Zoom. No surprise.”

Technological and pedagogical resources

 For those new to using Zoom, UC-Irvine Intellectual Property, Arts and Technology Clinic director Jack Lerner tweeted some tips, such as joining meetings 10 minutes early to work out any issues. Zoom has its own coronavirus resources, and The Volokh Conspiracy has a webinar on using Zoom for law school classes. And the Chronicle of Higher Education reminds us that, while we can expect some turbulence, “good teaching is good teaching.”

The Duke clinic’s first client meeting via Zoom went well, Ligon said, with plenty of advanced planning. First, the student handling the matter prepared an outline of his questions for the client, which Ligon said helped ensure “no one had an urge to speak over anyone out of concern that a question or topic wouldn’t be addressed.” Clinic staff then met with the student over Zoom about 30 minutes early to test the technology, run through the student’s questions, and discuss goals for the meeting. Finally, following the meeting, they debriefed via Zoom as well.

Outside of video conferencing, clinicians also have had to grapple with what other expectations and procedures must change, and how best to clearly communicate those changes to students and clients. To help, the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Clinical Legal Education is compiling policies and other planning materials that clinicians have prepared in response to COVID-19.

Legal resources

 Clients may also have legal questions arising from the public health crisis. The Reporters Committee is regularly updating its resources on how the pandemic is affecting reporters and public access, particularly in regards to emergency orders, public meetings and records, and court access. The Media Law Resource Center has also compiled sample letters and other resources.

FELN and our community are here to help

 If FELN can be of any assistance to you during these times, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Josh Moore at jmoore (at) rcfp (dot) org. If you want to ask your fellow FELN members a question about how they are handling a particular aspect, email the FELN listserv or FELN non-clinician listserv. We wish you all the best during this unprecedented time.

Recently on

The Buffalo Civil Liberties & Transparency Clinic was successful in the trial court against the Erie County Sheriff on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild Buffalo Chapter for access to the records of Buffalo’s local jails concerning suicide attempts by inmates. The resulting records revealed that the sheriff mischaracterized suicide attempts in the jails as “inmate disturbances” or “manipulative gestures.” [Read more]

The First Amendment Clinic at Cornell Law School represents a local citizen journalist in his efforts to fight a defamation lawsuit and proposed take-down order related to his watchdog coverage of local government in Geneva, New York. [Read more]

Funding Opportunity

The Legal Clinic Fund is accepting proposals for a second round of funding. The Fund, launched last year and supported by a group of foundations, provides grants to clinics “that seek to advance and defend First Amendment rights, media freedom, and transparency in their communities and nationally.” [Read more]

Proposals are due May 8
Note: The original April 3 deadline has been extended

On the Docket

>> Duke’s First Amendment Clinic filed an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals in Washington state in a case concerning whether an independent journalist with a YouTube channel is a member of the “news media” under Washington’s Public Records Act, which incorporates the definition from the state’s Media Shield Law. The brief argued that the shield law should be broadly construed to include new types of news outlets like those posting on YouTube.

>> The UCLA Documentary Film Legal Clinic’s students received a round of applause at the Sundance Film Festival for their work supporting The Cost of Silence, a documentary about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The film’s director called out the students during a Q&A session following its premiere. 

>> Students at the BU/MIT Technology Law Clinicadvised two MIT PhD students on their research that exposed vulnerabilities in a smartphone application several states were using to conduct absentee voting. The clinic helped the researchers disclose the findings to the Department of Homeland Security and to the public. [Read the research paper and New York Times coverage]  

>> The NYU Technology Law & Policy Clinicfiled an amicus brief in the Second Circuit in The Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith. The brief, filed on behalf of two artists in support of the Warhol Foundation, explained why fair use in copyright law should protect—and, indeed, does already protect—a broad range of artistic and cultural practices that includes critique and recontextualization.

>> Duke’s First Amendment Clinic and the UVA First Amendment Clinic filed separate amicus briefs in the First Circuit supporting a Maine high school student who was suspended for allegedly disrupting school by posting a note in the restroom alerting people to the school’s problem of sexual violence. Duke’s brief, on behalf of the clinic and a young woman, detailed why the First Amendment protects the student’s on-campus speech and highlighted the suspension’s potential impact on future reporting of sexual assault. UVA’s brief, on behalf of the Maine Press Association, focused on additional punishment the student appeared to receive for speaking to the news media, and it argued that off-campus speech to the press should be entitled to full First Amendment protection.

Collaboration Corner

Ruling expands public’s access to results of clinical trials studying drugs and medical devices

In a lawsuit brought by the Yale Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic and NYU Technology Law & Policy Clinic on behalf of two researchers, the Southern District of New York recently held that the FDA, NIH and HHS misinterpreted a 2007 law requiring the sponsors of clinical trials to disclose the results of those of FDA-approved products to the public. The court’s order requires the government to collect and post to the website about a decade’s worth of trial results — making data from potentially hundreds of clinical trials available for the first time.

Share your collaborations with us, or let us help you find a partner on a worthwhile matter. Email Josh Moore at jmoore (at) rcfp (dot) org for more information.

In the News

>> The Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY covered a victory of Georgetown’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy in which a federal district court found a First Amendment right to audio-record bail hearings in Philadelphia. Several students in ICAP’s practicum contributed to the lawsuit, in which ICAP represented nonprofit Philadelphia Bail Fund, since it was filed last summer.

>> The Buffalo NewsWGRC-TV and the Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune wrote about the Buffalo Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic filing a lawsuit against Niagara County on behalf of the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government. The lawsuit challenges a county law that kept private the annual financial disclosure statements filed by county government officials before 2019.

>> Law360 and WESA-FM reported on arguments by students at the University of Virginia First Amendment Clinic in an open records matter in Pennsylvania state court on behalf of newspaper The Caucus. The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office appealed a Pennsylvania Office of Open Records decision that it had to disclose technical information about its network of more than 1,000 security cameras in and around Pittsburgh.

>> The Arizona Capitol Times wrote extensively about information the Arizona State First Amendment Clinic helped the newspaper get unsealed in the criminal case of Paul Petersen, a former Maricopa County (Arizona) official who faces felony charges in multiples states for allegedly running an illegal adoption service.

FELN Jobs Board

 A number of positions are listed on the FELN Jobs Board

Around the Network

>> The University of Georgia School of Law has appointed Clare R. Norins as the first director of its First Amendment Clinic, which will launch this fall. Norins told that she has three primary goals for the new clinic at UGA:

  • Defend and advance the First Amendment through direct representation and advocacy;
  • Provide law students with real-world experience to become leaders on First Amendment issues; and
  • Serve as a resource for organizations, journalists, public employees, and the public on issues of free expression and open access to public information.

>> Ian Kalish serves as a fellow at the Duke First Amendment Clinic this academic year. Kalish assists in litigating cases and helping build out the clinic’s Campus Speech Database that tracks free speech conflicts in colleges and universities nationwide.

>> In a Medium post, Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic’s Kendra Albert did a Q&A on their path from clinic student to clinical instructor, in honor of the Cyberlaw Clinic’s 20th anniversary. The experiences Albert held on to as a student are the same they try to give their students:

“[T]he projects that resonated with me the most when I was working in the Clinic were the ones where it’s like, ‘Okay, this real client needs this real thing involving trademark or so on and so forth.’ That’s something I take into my work with students now — the unique opportunity of clinics is to take things out of the research, academic thinking and to, ‘Okay, this client needs this real thing.’”

FELN Repository

New resource

Lecture on Prepublication Review: Fabio Bertoni, general counsel at The New Yorker, and Carolyn Foley, VP and associate general counsel at Penguin Random House, recently spoke over lunch with Reporters Committee attorneys on their approach to vetting reporting projects prior to publication. They agreed to let us share this discussion with FELN members and your students.

+ Contribute: Share your current syllabi, other internal documents, court documents, etc. that might be helpful for other members by emailing jmoore (at) rcfp (dot) org. That’s also how you can get the password to the member-only folders.


>> Rutgers’ Ellen P. Goodman, along with Karen Kornbluh, released a new report, “Safeguarding Digital Democracy,” that finds the U.S. information ecosystem is “woefully vulnerable” to the spread of disinformation on the Internet. The report, from the Digital Innovation and Democracy Institute at the German Marshall Fund, suggests a roadmap both for immediate policy actions and for further research and collaborations. It also looks at how prevalent disinformation related to the coronavirus is right now.

>> New Media Rights Executive Director Art Neill and Staff Attorney Erika Lee recently published an article in the University of Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal. The article, “Fixing Copyright Registration For Online Video Creators: The Case for Group Registration of Published Videos,” explores options for modernizing copyright registration, including group registration of videos.

Thanks for reading

 >> Share your news, or let us know your ideas, feedback or questions about this newsletter: jmoore (at) rcfp (dot) org

>> Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter was compiled by Josh Moore at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

UPDATE: Legal Clinic Fund proposals due May 8

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on March 23, 2020, to reflect that the deadline has been extended to May 8.

A group of foundations announced that the Legal Clinic Fund is accepting proposals for a second round of funding for law school clinics.

The Legal Clinic Fund, launched last year, supports clinics “that seek to advance and defend First Amendment rights, media freedom, and transparency in their communities and nationally.” It provides grants for clinics’ growth, capacity building and experimentation to help ensure that journalists across the country have access to needed legal support.  

Proposals are due by the end of the day on May 8, with notifications of the awards planned for June. The original deadline of April 3 was extended as universities across the nation shifted to online and remote education to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The fund is supported by The Abrams Foundation, Democracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation. The Miami Foundation serves as fiscal sponsor.

In 2019, the fund announced its first four recipients:

  • The University at Buffalo Civil Liberties & Transparency Clinic to expand its work with journalists, newsrooms and nonprofits in Western New York and the surrounding regions
  • Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic to launch the Initiative for a Representative First Amendment (IfRFA), which provides financial support and career opportunities for law students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in First Amendment law
  • The Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic at University of California Irvine to increase its capacity to support independent journalists, documentary filmmakers, bloggers, media advocacy groups and others, with a particular focus on California
  • Cornell Law School’s First Amendment Clinic to expand its Local Journalism Project, which serves local and regional newsgatherers in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania and nearby states

More information about the application process and fund guidelines is available on the fund’s webpage.

All questions should be directed to Lindsey Linzer from The Miami Foundation at

Applications open for IfRFA summer fellowship program

The Initiative for a Representative First Amendment (IfRFA) is current accepting applications for fellowships to work on free expression issues at a law school clinic in summer 2020.

First- and second-year law school students who self-identify as a person from a background underrepresented in First Amendment law are eligible for the program, which also includes a seminar that will reflect on students’ experiences. IfRFA, based at the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic and directed by Kendra Albert, aims to provide career opportunities and financial support to students from these underrepresented backgrounds.

Applications are due Jan. 10, with fellowship decisions made in February. IfRFA will help place fellows with First Amendment or free expression clinics once they are selected.

More information about the program and the application requirements are available at:

IfRFA is funded by the Legal Clinics Fund.

Screenshot via the IfRFA website

Newsletter: Three new First Amendment clinics launching next year

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on Nov. 27, 2019, to add two additional news items.

Welcome to the inaugural newsletter from the Free Expression Legal Network, a coalition of law school clinics, law professors and others working on free speech, free press and government accountability issues. This newsletter will highlight the important work done by our members and others in this space. We’ll be experimenting with content and timing over the next few months, so please let us know what you think.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter here.

Three new First Amendment clinics launching next year

Law schools at Tulane University, the University of Georgia and Southern Methodist University have recently announced they will add First Amendment clinics next year, thanks to grants from the Stanton Foundation.

The clinics will allow students to represent clients in matters related to the First Amendment rights of speech, press, petition and assembly. Tulane and UGA will be hiring directors, while SMU has appointed Tom Leatherbury as director of its clinic. [Read more]

Tulane, UGA and SMU will join a number of clinics launched recently to work on First Amendment issues. Stanton, for example, has also helped start First Amendment clinics at the University of Washington at St. LouisArizona State UniversityCornell UniversityDuke University, and Vanderbilt University, all within the past couple years. The University of Virginia also re-launched its First Amendment Clinic this year in partnership with the Reporters Committee, and George Mason University started a Free Speech Clinic in 2018.

With these 10 new, relaunched or soon-to-launch clinics since 2018, there are now more than a dozen clinics focused exclusively on First Amendment and/or government transparency issues. There are also more than a dozen other clinics, focused on tech law, intellectual property or other subjects, doing significant work in this space.

Enter the Free Expression Legal Network, which helps many of these clinics collaborate and share resources and other tools. The FELN website highlights some of the clinics’ work, and we’ll use this newsletter to do that too.

+ See also: FELN’s public launch sparked coverage by on the increasing number of these law school clinics
+ ICYMI: FELN formally launched in September with 22 clinic members and more than two dozen law professors

Recently on

UC-Irvine’s Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic won disclosure of child services records earlier this year, revealing how social workers failed to protect a 10-year-old Los Angeles boy from years of alleged physical abuse, eventually ending with his death and murder charges being filed against his mother and her boyfriend. [Read more]

The Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic announced the Initiative for a Representative First Amendment, a fellowship program for legal practitioners and practitioners-in-training who exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. The Initiative will provide stipends for fellows to work at legal clinics specializing in First Amendment or freedom of expression work. [Read more]

+ See also: Harvard’s initiative is one of four grants made during the first round of the Legal Clinics Fund

The Cornell First Amendment Clinic also received support from the Fund to expand its Local Journalism Project, which provides pro bono representations to investigative journalists and news outlets that cannot otherwise afford representation. So far, the clinic has represented a New York newspaper alleging First Amendment retaliation for publishing critical editorials of its local government’s decision to disband the paid fire department, and also uncovered potential violations of open meetings laws by this same government. It has also helped a freelance journalist separately obtain documents related to rape kit testing. The clinic will hire a full-time staff attorney to help teach students as well as oversee cases as part of the Project.

American University’s Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic recently provided intellectual property counseling on the PBS documentary film “Look Who’s Driving,” about self-driving vehicles. [Read more]

In the News

>> As VTDigger reports, the Cornell First Amendment Clinic’s ongoing representation of the Vermont news outlet helped uncover missing documents related to the nation’s largest EB-5 scandal. (EB-5 is a federal program that allows foreign investors to obtain green cards in the United States in exchange for investing a minimum of $500,000 for the creation of 10 jobs in economically impoverished areas.) The State of Vermont admitted it could not find emails from one of the top officials who oversaw the state’s administration of the EB-5 program, and was unable to explain what happened to these emails. In part due to Cornell’s efforts on VTDigger’s behalf, the state conducted an audit of its email system and uncovered a missing external hard drive with additional documents, which it produced.

>> The St. Louis American writes that the First Amendment Clinic at Washington University represents a woman who alleges that a police officer violated her First Amendment rights when he took her cellphone while she was videoing an arrest.

>> KPNX-12 News in Phoenix reports on documents from the Arizona Public Service, which the ASU First Amendment Clinic helped them obtain. The internal customer survey results contradict the public utility’s claims that most customers were satisfied with the company.

>> The Associated Press notes that the ASU First Amendment Clinic also helped the AP gain access to the 2017 findings of a court-appointed investigator re-examining misconduct investigations by the office of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The AP reports that the documents show, among other things, that Arpaio’s aides ignored a court’s order to stop immigration sweeps that targeted Latinos.

>> Courthouse News Service writes that the University of Virginia First Amendment Clinic argued on behalf of the Virginia Press Association that a $50 million defamation by implication lawsuit by actor Johnny Depp against his former wife could have a chilling effect on the state’s news organizations. The proposed amicus brief was also covered by the Associated Press.

>> The Richmond Times-Dispatch explains that the Yale Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic represents the newspaper and other news media organizations in suing the Virginia Department of Corrections to allow citizens and journalists to witness executions in the state from start to finish. The lawsuit was also covered by the Associated Press.

FELN Job Board

A number of positions, including clinical staff, fellowships and a summer associate position, are listed on the FELN Jobs Board. Contact each organization directly with questions or to confirm the position is still open.

If you have a job posting of interest to clinicians or students, email it to jmoore (at)

Other Recent Work

The Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic at UC-Irvine is representing the First Amendment Coalition in a motion to unseal records in the criminal case against a man charged in the stabbing death of a teenager at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland.

In Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix LLC, a Ninth Circuit case concerning copyright fair use, Berkeley’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic filed an amicus brief, and the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief as well.

Yale’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a lawsuit challenging a Texas statute making it a crime for journalists and others to use drones for newsgathering and similar activities. The suit is on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association, the Texas Press Association and an independent journalist.

Duke’s First Amendment Clinic filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Butler v. Board of County Commissioners for San Miguel County, which involves the First Amendment’s application to government employee speech.

+ See also: The First Amendment Clinic at Washington University also filed an amicus brief in Butler on behalf of a group of First Amendment scholars, many of which are non-clinician members of FELN.

The University of Virginia’s First Amendment Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Reporters Committee in support of a motion to dismiss by Daniel Hale, a former Air Force service member being prosecuted for allegedly leaking classified documents about the “targeted killing” drone program.

FELN Repository

New resource

History of the First Amendment Lecture: Gabe Rottman, director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee who also teaches the First Amendment Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law, recently gave an hour-long lunchtime lecture (to both lawyers and non-lawyers) on the history of the First Amendment. This lecture is now available for FELN members to download and share with students in whatever way that may be useful. 


Over the summer, we added additional syllabi to the repository as well. A number of members used these examples while they were creating or modifying their syllabi for this academic year.

+ Contribute: Take a moment to share your current syllabi (and any other internal documents, court documents, etc.) by emailing jmoore (at) That’s also how you can get the password to the member-only folders.

At the Supreme Court

A number of clinics recently filed amicus briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court in Georgia v., which asks whether annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated are copyrightable. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Dec. 2.

  • Berkeley’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic, on behalf of major library associations [Brief]
  • Colorado’s Samuelson-Glushko Tech Law & Policy Clinic, on behalf of disability advocates [Brief]
  • Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic, on behalf of the Caselaw Access Project, a team of legal researchers, software developers and law librarians [Brief]
  • Stanford’s IP and Innovation Clinic, on behalf of next-generation legal research platforms and databases [Brief]
  • USC’s IP & Tech Law Clinic, on behalf of 39 law students, 24 solo and small-firm practitioners of law, and 38 legal educators, including some FELN members [Brief]
  • Vanderbilt’s First Amendment Clinic, on behalf of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the Florida-based Human Rights Defense Center [Brief]

Share your news with us

🗞️ Keep us in the loop on what your clinic is working on so we can share it on or in this newsletter (deadline for next month’s newsletter is Dec. 12): jmoore (at)

💬 We would love to hear your ideas, feedback or questions about this newsletter: jmoore (at)

👥 Think someone else would enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a colleague. They can sign up here.

This newsletter was compiled by Josh Moore at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Tulane, UGA, SMU to add First Amendment clinics in 2020

The number of First Amendment clinics across the country continues to grow, with three law schools recently announcing clinics that will launch in fall 2020.

The Stanton Foundation provided grants to establish new clinics at Tulane University, the University of Georgia and Southern Methodist University. Each of the clinics will allow students to represent clients in matters related to the First Amendment rights of speech, press, petition and assembly.

The First Amendment Clinic at Tulane Law School will hire a new director to lead the clinic, according to the school’s announcement. It will also be advised by a panel of Tulane faculty, including Amy Gajda, Stephen Griffin, Catherine Hancock, Lucia Blacksher Ranier and Keith Werhan.

“In the classroom and through the clinic, Tulane will prepare future generations of lawyers and civic leaders committed to defending First Amendment values critical to our democracy,” Dean David Meyer said.

The University of Georgia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic has also begun searching for a director, according to the school’s press release.

“The law school community is excited about this partnership, which will not only support the First Amendment, but also give our law students the chance to protect the rights of individuals and to raise civic awareness in communities throughout the Southeast as they learn how to navigate cases and assist clients so they will be effective lawyers after graduation,” Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said.

At Southern Methodist University, the Dedman School of Law appointed First Amendment attorney Tom Leatherbury as the new First Amendment Clinic’s first director, according to the university’s release. The school will hire a full-time fellow to handle day-to-day administration.

“This Clinic will make its mark across the state and the nation, using best practices of clinical legal education to strengthen First Amendment values and to improve access to justice,” Leatherbury said.

The Stanton Foundation, which also supports First Amendment clinics at a number of other universities across the country, was created by Frank Stanton, the long-time president of CBS.

For links to the job postings associated with the new clinics, visit FELN’s Jobs Board.

American’s IP Clinic advises PBS documentary ‘Look Who’s Driving’

Students at American University’s Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic recently provided intellectual property counseling on the documentary film “Look Who’s Driving,” which debuted on PBS on October 23.

The 53-minute film by Kikim Media aired on PBS’s science program NOVA. It explores how self-driving cars function, how they may change the way we live and whether they are safe.

The clinic’s blog post on the documentary notes that its “work on this film is part of its long-standing effort helping documentary filmmakers follow best fair use practices.”

Photo via PBS International