Bronx Defenders Externship on Holistic Defense
Robin Steinberg and co-instructor TBD, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 2 ungraded clinical credits)
An arrest is never just an arrest. An arrest – or any contact with the criminal justice or child welfare systems – can lead to crippling enmeshed penalties that destabilize individuals’ lives and families. For a person struggling with poverty, these enmeshed penalties can place child custody, immigration status, employment, public benefits, housing, and access to medical and mental health treatment in jeopardy. Many of these consequences of court involvement can occur regardless of whether an individual ever receives a conviction or spends time incarcerated.
This externship immerses students in the cutting edge of holistic defense work in the South Bronx, home to the poorest congressional district in the country. Students will learn interdisciplinary approaches to addressing the enmeshed penalties of criminal justice involvement at a defender office committed treating clients as whole people, rather than merely processing their cases. Course content and fieldwork will train students as future holistic lawyers offering seamless access to services that meet clients' legal and social support needs; engaging in the dynamic and interdisciplinary exchange of information, ideas, and strategies; developing and improving interdisciplinary skill sets; and seeking a robust understanding of and connection to the community served.
The weekly classroom component of the Holistic Defense Externship will take place at Columbia, where guest speakers with a variety of professional backgrounds will help students contextualize their experiences with clients and the justice system. Simulations, real-world case studies, and background readings will help students locate their experiences of individual client representation in discussions of social, political, and economic policies.
Learning Through Doing - The Placement
The Bronx Defenders' award-winning collaborative approach brings together interdisciplinary teams of social workers, investigators, policy organizers, civil legal advocates, parent advocates, and attorneys specializing in criminal defense, family defense, and civil matters to address both the underlying causes and enmeshed penalties of court involvement.
At the heart of holistic defense is a commitment to client-centered representation, defining a client not by her case but by the needs she identifies. Holistic defense seeks to create a “legal "home" for clients where they can seamlessly access legal and social work support for a variety of matters.
Students will gain experience providing clients with zealous, client-centered advocacy by completing a minimum of 10 hours of fieldwork each week. Each student will be assigned to a supervisor in one of the following practice areas: Criminal Defense, Family Defense, Civil Action, Immigration, Adolescent Defense, or Policy & Community Organizing.
Requirements & Application Process
Students will receive four credits – two graded academic credits for the seminar and two ungraded clinical credits for their fieldwork. The seminar will be graded on class participation and a writing assignment. The course will be limited to 6-12 students in order to facilitate active engagement. The course will be taught in fall and spring and is open to JD and LL.M candidates. There are no prerequisites to take this course other than a passion for service in low-income communities.
To apply, please submit a resume and a short cover letter describing your interest and any relevant background in the course to Velvet Sanchez (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 5pm on Monday, April 13th, 2015.