Looking for Appellate Skills? Check Out WUSTL's Appellate Clinic

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on February 04, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Law students who are looking for hands-on experience in the appellate realm in circuits that allow law students to make court appearances may want to look into appellate clinics.

One such clinic, the Appellate Clinic at Washington University in St. Louis, lets students represent pro se litigants in cases to be heard by the Eighth Circuit. It's among only a handful of programs nationally that provide law students with an opportunity to represent clients in appellate cases.

Washington University's Appellate Clinic

After the Clerk of the Court assigns cases at the beginning of the semester, students handle all aspects of the appeal, including motions, filings, and briefs. One lucky student argues each case, but the clinic itself is available to eight students per semester. Students may also write certiorari petitions and amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court.

To prepare for the argument, students work closely with clinic alumni, current clinic students, Professor Bruce La Pierre, who has argued numerous cases in the Federal Courts of Appeals and in the U.S. Supreme Court, and Adjunct Professor Brian Walsh of Bryan Cave LLP.

Learning Litigation Skills and Beyond

The experience of participating in an appellate clinic is best summed up by third-year Washington University School of Law student Matthew DiMeglio, who recently successfully argued his case before a three-member panel of the Eighth Circuit on behalf of a client who claims that he was retaliated against by jail officials, according to a school press release.

"Presenting an argument in front of the Eighth Circuit was a wonderful opportunity for me to gain practical litigation experience at an early stage in my legal career," DiMeglio said.

Proclaiming it the highlight of his law school experience, DiMeglio continued, "It also taught me a tremendous amount about oral advocacy and litigation strategy. It was an amazing experience to be able to appear before such a distinguished panel."

Given the distinguished alumni of Washington University, who knows where the clinic's graduates will wind up: perhaps to the Eighth Circuit and beyond.

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