For Prospective Students
Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic
Professor Suzanne Goldberg
Credits: 4 points of credit, all of which count towards graduation; 3 of these are clinical points.
Writing credit: Minor writing credit available.
Enrollment: Up to six students will be accepted in the fall semester. Students who have already completed one semester in the clinic may continue to handle clinic work for additional credit by permission of the instructor.
Class meeting time: The clinic seminar is typicall held on Thursdays from 3 – 5 p.m. (see below for details regarding additional clinic meetings).
Please note that the Spring 2011 Clinic is a 4-credit course, and students are expected to put in between 12 and 16 hours per week on project work, as detailed below.
The Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic provides students with an extraordinary opportunity to participate directly in the development of sexuality and gender law while engaging with the difficult questions posed by law reform work in the midst of shifting political and legal terrain. What does it mean to advocate on behalf of a community? How do advocates select among issues? Once priorities have been set, how should choices be made among various law reform strategies, including litigation, public education, grassroots advocacy, and legislative efforts? How best can those strategic choices be executed? In the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, you will have the opportunity to think through these questions while developing strong advocacy and analytic skills.
In class and in projects, the focus is on multidimensional lawyering, meaning that we spend our time thinking through the full range of advocacy options that lawyers can bring to bear on a problem. Students actively consider constitutional doctrine, procedural strategy, ethical canons, social science research, and constitutional and political theory. Our projects involve litigation, policy policy development, legislative drafting, training, organizing, public education, and media outreach. This practical strategic training is coupled with an emphasis on reflective, theoretical inquiry about lawyering generally, about lawyering on behalf of social movements, and about lawyering specifically in the area of sexuality and gender issues.
Clinic students work cooperatively with lawyers and advocates at organizations focused on sexuality and gender issues and with lawyers at firms handling sexuality- and gender-related cases. Recent projects have included:
- Amicus briefs to the Connecticut and California supreme courts in marriage litigation and to the European Court of Human Rights regarding trafficking;
- Development of legal manuals to support enforcement of women’s rights protocols in Africa and a transgender rights ordinance in New York City;
- Advocacy and development of public education efforts with UNICEF regarding violence against young women;
- Legislative analysis and drafting in connection with local domestic partnership ordinances, state domestic violence and prostitution law, and federal immigration law;
- Preparation of asylum applications for individuals bringing claims of persecution based on forced marriage, political opinion, and sexual orientation;
- Litigation research, planning, and support on issues related to women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, and the rights of transgender individuals both in the United States and abroad;
- Development and analysis of vital databases of domestic partnership ordinances and opinions of state attorneys general for advocacy organizations.
Cooperating organizations vary from semester to semester but may include Lambda Legal Defense, Equality Now, the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, Legal Momentum (formerly NOW LDEF), the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and UNICEF, and many more, including statewide and local sexuality and gender rights organizations.
All students are welcome to apply. Prior experience working on sexuality and gender law issues is not necessary; interest and enthusiasm are both important.
For more information about the clinic and past projects, please see the Annual Reports on the clinic's website. For additional information, please contact Professor Goldberg.
Some important practical points regarding enrollment, hours, and clinic meetings:
You are expected to devote in 12 to 16 hours per week to your clinic work, exclusive of the two-hour per week clinic seminar. In addition to seminar meetings, your time on clinic work will include a weekly student-led clinic rounds session, preparation for the clinic seminar, team meetings on your projects with Professor Goldberg, and independent and collaborative work on your clinic projects, of course. Some (interesting) background reading on sexuality and gender law issues will be required prior to the beginning of class in September.