Unique among law schools nationally, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law requires every student who initially enrolls as a first year, full-time day student to provide legal services to people who are poor or otherwise lack access to justice as a prerequisite to graduation. The Cardin Requirement results in more than 250 students contributing over 140,000 hours of free legal service annually, making the Clinical Law Program one of the largest public interest firms in Maryland. Accordingly, the core of the law school's commitment to ensuring and enhancing the quality of justice in society is expressed through the Cardin Requirement.
Named for U.S. Senator Ben Cardin '67, the Cardin Requirement makes experiential education a key component of the law school's curriculum. Courses that satisfy the Cardin Requirement—offered through the nationally recognized Clinical Law Program—give students the opportunity to represent real clients in real cases. The clinical and legal theory and practice courses encourage students to develop a professional identity valuing service to the poor and other underrepresented persons and communities. Most importantly, however, the Cardin experience enables students to understand, apply, and critique legal theory and law practice to help them analyze how to improve the law and access to justice.
As part of fulfilling the Cardin Requirement, students have earned a Baltimore man's release from an unjust life sentence, filed a class action lawsuit supporting defendants' rights to counsel at preliminary bail hearings, and eased restrictions on access to treatment for drug addicted individuals. Clinic students have also led successful efforts to ban smoking in bars and restaurants across the state, and supported enforcement of Maryland's most significant environmental protection legislation.