Jonathan Manes talking with students at a table.

Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic

The Civil Liberties & Transparency Clinic defends free speech, privacy, and other individual rights while pressing for greater transparency and accountability in government.

The clinic works on behalf of individuals and client organizations at the local and national level, conducting litigation and policy advocacy to achieve systemic improvements in the law and to support investigative and government accountability work.

Contact Us

Jonathan Manes, Director of the Civil Liberties and Transparency Clinic

University at Buffalo
School of Law
507 O'Brian Hall, North Campus
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100


The Civil Liberties & Transparency Clinic is a 4-6 credit, semester-long course. Students are strongly encouraged, though not required, to enroll in the clinic for more than one semester. Advanced students have the option of enrolling for a smaller number of credits.

Student attorneys in the clinic learn to practice law by actually engaging in the practice of law. Students are in the “first chair” role whenever possible, appearing in court, counseling clients, drafting court filings, testifying before legislative bodies, and engaging in all of other varied and nuanced work of a public interest lawyer. All of this work is undertaken with close, supportive guidance and feedback from the clinic’s faculty director.

Through the work of representing clients, student attorneys will be engaged in a range of advocacy strategies including litigation, administrative practice, legislative advocacy, and engagement with media. Students will be exposed to a number of modes of public interest practice, including impact lawyering, direct services, and law-and-organizing methodologies. The clinic seeks to empower and motivate students to use their legal training to serve the public.

Each student is assigned to two cases, typically one case that is in active litigation and another matter that involves opportunities for non-litigation lawyering, such as practice before an administrative agency, preparing policy reports, or engaging in community-based advocacy or know-your-rights trainings. Students work in teams of between two and four students on each case. Students are assigned to cases based on their preferences as well as the programmatic and pedagogical objectives of the clinic.

Through our work on behalf of clients, students will learn bread-and-butter lawyering skills, including:

  • Crafting a compelling theory of the case
  • Developing complex federal and state litigation
  • Drafting excellent pleadings, legal briefs, memos, and other documents
  • Conducting negotiations on behalf of a client
  • Oral advocacy in court or in other fora
  • Planning and assessing legal strategies
  • Exercising professional judgment

The required clinic seminar incudes significant emphasis on these lawyering skills. In seminar, we will often uses materials and problems from our ongoing client work as the basis for instruction. The seminar also covers relevant substantive law, including the fundamentals of open government law and selected civil liberties topics. The seminar devotes significant attention to the ethical, political, and professional questions that arise in public interest lawyering and invites students examine how they may use their professional training and power as lawyers to seek justice and serve their conceptions of the public good.