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George Mason University law student Matthew Long still has three months of schoolwork before graduation, but this week he and two classmates had a case before the Supreme Court.

The group of students is part of a new class dedicated to Supreme Court work at the Fairfax, Va., school. Nationwide, more than a half dozen law schools offer similar courses.

The students don't get to argue the cases. They aren't even lawyers yet. But students participating in the so-called Supreme Court clinics get to do everything else: research issues, draft briefs and consult with the lawyer actually presenting the case to the high court.

"We're all very much aware that you can go your entire legal career without ever being on a case before this court, and it's unbelievable that we'd have this experience as law students," Long, 26, said as he stood outside the Supreme Court after Monday's arguments in a case about a man in prison for murder in Colorado and time limits involved in his case.

Stanford University started the first Supreme Court clinic for students in 2004 and is still involved in the most cases. But schools with clinics now include Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Virginia and the University of Texas. In the past three years, clinics report that students have been involved in about 1 out of every 6 cases argued before the court. This week, students are participating in two of the court's cases.



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