Student Opportunities

Joining the CFJC team offers students an incredible opportunity to develop practical skills and make a meaningful impact on the lives of children, their families, and communities across Illinois.

Students play an integral role in the Center’s work—from providing direct legal representation to advocating for policy and law reform. Through cases and projects, students develop the skills, experience, and confidence to be effective lawyers regardless of where their careers take them.

The opportunity is open to second- and third-year law students. Additionally, the CFJC serves as a field placement for training social work students from local masters-level programs. More information about these opportunities can be found below.

Law Students

At the CFJC, second- and third-year law students learn about the legal process from top to bottom and put their skills to immediate and important use on behalf of youth most in need of legal representation.

Students work with attorneys, social workers, and affiliated professionals to represent children from under-resourced backgrounds who otherwise would not have access to a lawyer. From meeting with clients to investigating a crime scene to arguing in front of a jury, CFJC cases offer students the opportunity to take on leadership roles and put their lawyering skills to work. Along the way, CFJC clinical professors provide intensive mentorship, coaching, and guidance, ensuring students have the support they need to provide exceptional service to their clients.

Through coursework and contribution to CFJC cases, students learn to:

  • Interview clients, witnesses, and other stakeholders
  • Conduct pre-trial investigations
  • Write effective memoranda, motions, petitions, and briefs
  • Deliver oral advocacy and arguments
  • Negotiate on behalf of clients
  • Bring leadership, professionalism, and innovation to cases and projects
  • Collaborate with team members, such as peers, clients, social workers, law firm partners, agency representatives, policy stakeholders, and other professionals integral to case success

In addition to strengthening their practical skills, students develop meaningful client relationships and impact lives through holistic representation. While providing our clients with access to a lawyer is a powerful step toward justice, representation alone is often not enough. Many CFJC clients are navigating a range of issues—from lack of housing to unemployment to poor health—that hinder their ability to participate effectively in their cases. By linking clients with essential services and support, our students help disadvantaged youth have a better chance at receiving equal justice. In the process, students connect with communities throughout Chicago and gain a firsthand look at the way youth and families across the city are impacted by the criminal justice system.

Social Work Students

The CFJC offers an immersive learning opportunity for social work students from local master’s level programs. Placements are available during the academic year and the summer.

While CFJC clients range from young teenagers to older adults, all of their lives have been significantly impacted by the justice system. Our social work team helps clients move forward and establish successful lives with confidence, stability, and hope. 

Students are trained in the comprehensive skills of case management and learn to foster strong rapport with clients while coordinating their care across communities, institutions, and agencies. Working hand-in-hand with CFJC’s social workers, law students, and attorneys, students develop client social histories, identify and address the factors that contributed to client involvement in the justice system, and help clients navigate their interactions with the law.  Social work students play an integral role in advocating for the individuals they serve—from courtrooms to classrooms, doctor’s offices to prisons, faith organizations to social service agencies, and throughout client reentry into their community after detainment and incarceration. With guidance from the CFJC’s social work team, students take responsibility for their cases and clients, gaining valuable experience that helps them become competent and confident social workers.

Through their CFJC experience, social work students learn to:

  • Interview and communicate effectively with clients
  • Develop client rapport through active listening, empathy building, and healthy boundary setting
  • Complete psychosocial histories and write mitigation reports for court-involved clients
  • Conduct social science research and deploy in advocacy of clients
  • Create reentry plans for youth and adults transitioning back into the community
  • Advocate on behalf of clients in court, and across agencies, institutions, and other legal settings
  • Become familiar with the various stages of the criminal justice system
  • Collaborate with lawyers, family members, probation officers, educators, school administrators, doctors, mental health professionals, faith organizations and other community members

In addition to supporting the CFJC’s work, social work students have the opportunity to work with several other centers within Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, including the Center for Wrongful Conviction, MacArthur Justice Center, and the Center for Criminal Defense. Through working with clients navigating a wide array of legal challenges, visiting clients in prison and detention centers, attending court, and supporting client transitions back home, social work students at the CFJC gain a comprehensive understanding of how the legal system works and the ways it affects the lives of those who come into contact with it.