MSU College of Law

First Amendment Law Clinic

Since 2010, the First Amendment Clinic has trained 5,000 students at 34 Michigan high schools in free speech rights and press rights.

The First Amendment Law Clinic is the only clinical program in the country solely dedicated to the protection of student speech and press rights. It provides education and legal advice to Michigan high school students on student press censorship and privacy issues, as well as copyright and privacy matters involving Facebook and Internet postings.

Clinic students also provide pro bono legal representation to high school and community college journalists whose free speech rights are challenged.

High school is where young people learn they have free speech rights. They carry that lesson into adulthood to speak out against injustice, and to create change.

Nancy Costello, director

Our students visit high schools to teach eight First Amendment workshops to student journalists and faculty advisors. The workshops examine law regarding student speech and social media speech, student access to government records, and the impact of copyright and privacy law on the student press. Clinic students do legal research on questions presented by high school clients and provide legal advice. Law College faculty supervise 2Ls and 3Ls in their clinical work.

The First Amendment Clinic is a close-knit environment with 10-12 law students per semester. Students work in pairs to provide top-notch classroom instruction. It’s critical to know the issues and be thoroughly prepared.

First Amendment Clinic students:

  • Prepare lesson plans on First Amendment topics
  • Become skilled in oral presentation before a critical audience
  • Teach and collaborate with high school faculty and students
  • Research novel, cutting edge issues in First Amendment law

You really have to put in the time to evaluate the needs and interests of your high school clients. When I wasn’t drafting memos or creating lesson plans, I was reading the law carefully so that I could fully explain it to students.

Gabrielle Boyer, ’16

We offer First Amendment workshops and pro bono legal services to school journalism programs throughout Michigan. Clinic students assist student journalists and faculty struggling with a variety of legal issues including permissible use of social media, student press censorship, copyright and trademark infringement, access to government records, and invasion of privacy issues.

We taught social media law to middle school and high school students who were not quite thinking about what they would post online. The students really needed to know what they could and couldn’t publish on Facebook and Twitter!

Gabrielle Boyer, ’16