Founded in 2009, the Human Trafficking Clinic was the first clinical law program solely dedicated to the issue of human trafficking. By representing victims of labor and sex trafficking and engaging in large-scale social innovation and problem solving, students learn and practice collaboration, fact investigation, stakeholder management, legal analysis, problem solving, counseling, interviewing, project management, and advocacy skills.

About the HTC+Lab

The Human Trafficking Clinic, launched in 2009, was the first clinical law program solely dedicated to the issue of human trafficking. Human trafficking encompasses all forms of compelled labor or services and it occurs around the world.

For more than a decade, we relied solely on legal tools and direct representation to fight human trafficking.

In 2022, we launched the Lab, allowing us to go beyond direct representation in order to change exploitative systems. The Lab endeavors to create change at policy, service, and industry levels through collaborative partnerships across the nonprofit, corporate, and government sectors. 

We believe the law is an incomplete, imperfect solution to reducing exploitation and that interdisciplinary, cross-industry collaboration is necessary.

Our vision for the HTC+Lab partnership is that the work with individual survivors in the clinic will help ensure the lab is victim-centered and informed by lived-experience.

Our Work

The HTC+Lab offers a range of services, including direct representation of U.S. citizens and foreign national trafficking victims. We also handle corporate governance compliance and advising as well as grand-scale problem-solving design work centered on reducing vulnerability to trafficking. 

Our direct service clinic work is best described as a poverty law practice on behalf of survivors of human trafficking and their families. It includes immigration, post-adjudication criminal relief, access to public benefits, and victim-witness advocacy. 

In the Lab, multidisciplinary student teams from across UM grad programs work with community and industry stakeholders to develop systemic solutions to reduce vulnerability to trafficking. 

Currently, our projects span across six general themes: The Non-Punishment Principle, Access To Justice, The Right to Forget, Combatting Misinformation, and Supply Chain. 

Information for Students

In the HTC+Lab, you will learn and practice collaboration, problem solving, fact investigation, legal analysis, counseling, and advocacy skills. You and your classmates will be responsible, under supervision, for all cases and projects within the HTC+Lab.

You will collaborate with a variety of stakeholders, including survivors of human trafficking, law enforcement, government officials, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations to identify and implement solutions to combat vulnerability to trafficking. 

In the systems-level problem solving and reform work of the HTC+Lab, you will be joined by graduate students from multiple disciplines to identify and create solutions that reduce vulnerability to exploitation. These projects may include increasing access to expungement, combating misinformation in anti-trafficking narratives, and exploring the role of discretion in the legal process.

The HTC+Lab is a 7-credit course and meets the New York pro bono requirement. Students must enroll in both the 4-credit HTC+Lab and the 3-credit seminar, taken concurrently.

Human Trafficking FAQs

  • What is human trafficking?

    Human trafficking encompasses all forms of compelled labor or services and it occurs throughout the United States. Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of people for the purposes of a commercial sex act, involuntary servitude, or debt bondage. It currently exists in every state of the United States and across the world. It can be found in many industries: agriculture, service, hospitality, and domestic service, as well as in the commercial sex industry. In 2000, the federal government, responding to the inadequacy of the current laws and to the scale and gravity of the problem, enacted the first comprehensive human trafficking law in the United States: the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The Act defines human trafficking and establishes penalties for human traffickers. Some states and localities have followed the lead of the federal government and have enacted their own laws.

  • What kind of legal work does the clinic do?

    The vast majority of our work is in the field of immigration. Students develop and submit many different types of applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services including T Visas, U Visas, Violence Against Women Act petitions, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Adjustment of Status (Green Cards), and Citizenship. Students sometimes also represent clients in removal proceedings. Michigan law students interested in pursuing immigration law should absolutely consider the Human Trafficking Clinic because, although we serve a particular sub-population, the daily work of the clinic is highly reflective of the work of an immigration practitioner or pro bono attorney representing any crime victim. The second most common legal remedy students work on is the removal of convictions from a survivor’s criminal record. Under Michigan law, victims of human trafficking can request removal of specific convictions if they can show they were victims of human trafficking at the time of the alleged crime. Removal of convictions requires submission of a brief and oral advocacy in a court hearing.

    We do not prosecute cases against criminals or investigate criminal matters. We can assist a survivor in reporting to and working with law enforcement and prosecutors. We are not able to assist survivors with non-legal matters but will do our best to refer to appropriate services.

  • How do I enroll in the HTC+Lab?

    Current Michigan Law School students who are interested in being a part of the clinic can do so in two ways: either by enrolling in the clinic for credit during the academic year, or by applying to be an intern in the summer. For information in how to enroll in the academic year please refer to the current Clinic Enrollment Guide. Details on how to apply for summer internships will be entered into the Simplicity system during the Winter semester each year.

    Non-Michigan law students are not able to enroll during the academic year. In very limited circumstances, individuals currently enrolled in a JD program can apply for a summer internship with the Human Trafficking Clinic. If you are interested in applying for a summer internship with the clinic please submit a cover letter and resume to humantrafficking@umich.edu by January 30th of the year. Please write “Summer Employment Application” in the subject line of the email.

  • What is the difference between the clinic and the lab? Can I enroll in one but not the other?

    Students must enroll in the 4 credit Clinic + Lab and the 3 credit seminar, taken concurrently.

  • I am interested in applying for the clinic, but I have heard it is hard to get into. Is that true?

    No! This is a worrisome myth about the clinic. It is sometimes the case that applicants will not be selected the first semester they apply. However, it is almost always the case that applicants who submit complete clinic applications for multiple semesters are admitted at some point during their Law School career.

  • How does the clinic identify clients?

    We receive referrals from a variety of community partners including the National Human Trafficking Hotline; social services providers; other attorneys; local, state and federal law enforcement or prosecutors; and survivors who have self-identified. 

  • How do I refer someone for legal assistance?

    The best way to request assistance for yourself or someone else is to call our office at 734-615-3600. We are generally open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. When you call, be prepared to briefly provide the nature of the victimization, the legal need, and safe contact information. We do not accept walk-ins.

  • I am not a member of the Michigan Law School community. Can I volunteer?

    Thank you for offering to assist our efforts. Our first priority is always to ensure we are accommodating the volunteer interests of members of the University of Michigan Law School community. Thus, we do not have volunteer opportunities for individuals outside of the Michigan Law School Community.

    The only exception to the above statement applies to those who possess non-English language skills. There are instances when we need interpretation/translation of a less-commonly spoken language and there is no one in the Law School community able to meet that need. If you are fluent in a language other than English and are interested in being a volunteer interpreter/translator, please email humantrafficking@umich.edu with your name, email, phone number, and the language(s) in which you are fluent.

  • I am hosting a public event or training on human trafficking. Can I request a speaker from the clinic?

    Thank you for your interest in the topic of human trafficking. We receive an overwhelming number of requests for a speaker and are only able to accommodate a small fraction of the requests we receive. If you would like to request a speaker, please send an email to humantrafficking@umich.edu with the following information: the agency or organization you are associated with; proposed date(s) and time(s); the length of the proposed presentation; location; a description of the audience including an estimated number in attendance; and what kind of information on human trafficking you are seeking. Depending on the nature of the request, there may be a speaker’s fee.

  • I am researching human trafficking. Can I talk to someone about the issue?

    We are thankful that you are interested in learning more about the issue, but we are unable to respond to general research requests. The clinic is a functioning law office and we must ensure that we are dedicating our limited staff time to meeting the needs of our clients.