Civil Litigation Externships

Explore civil litigation externships:

Karen Cacace and Ming-Qi Chu, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic credits and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
The The Civil Litigation-Employment Law Externship at the Labor Bureau in the New York State Office of the Attorney General is a year-long intensive study of federal, state and city employment laws. The first semester will focus on learning the relevant laws, which will include minimum wage and overtime laws, anti-discrimination laws, family and medical leave laws, and anti-trafficking laws. The second semester will focus on litigation skills, including interviewing clients, drafting complaints, presenting at an initial conference, drafting discovery requests, and taking and defending depositions. Students are encouraged to take the full-year course but may take just one semester.

The Seminar
Each week in the seminar portion of the course students will explore either a substantive area of employment law or a litigation skill. The seminars will be focused primarily on class discussions about the specific seminar topic. The seminars will also include individual practical exercises, including client interviewing, drafting a complaint and presenting a case at a mock initial conference. Students will be required to submit a 10-page paper evaluating their experience in the externship.

The course is graded on participation and attendance in the seminar, performance in the mock exercises, and the final paper. Performance in the field placement may affect the course grade as a plus or minus.

Fieldwork
The fieldwork will require students to work at the Attorney General’s offices 15 hours per week. Karen Cacace, Labor Bureau Chief, and Ming-Qi Chu, Civil Enforcement Section Chief, will teach the seminar and supervise the students’ fieldwork. The fieldwork will provide students with the opportunity to assist the attorneys in the Labor Bureau with investigations into employers who have violated the employment laws, including by interviewing workers, assisting with subpoena hearings for employer witnesses, document discovery, and with litigation filed in federal and state court.

Requirements and Application Process
The course will be limited to six to eight students. Enrollment is open to 2Ls, 3Ls, and LL.M.s. Foreign language skills, especially Spanish, are useful. There are no prerequisites to take this course.

To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].

Monica Wagner and Lisa Landau, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
Lawyers in the New York Attorney General’s Social Division represent the people of New York on a wide range of social and environmental justice matters, ranging from enforcing civil rights, labor, and other laws that protect vulnerable communities, including people of color, immigrants, workers, LGBTQ people, tenants, and health care consumers, and other vulnerable communities to challenging repeals and delays of federal environmental programs and other federal programs that protect New Yorkers to ensuring that charitable donations are used for their intended purpose. Students take a weekly, two‐hour seminar and work 15 hours per week in one of seven bureaus: Civil Rights, Environmental Protection, Consumer Frauds & Protection, Charities, Labor, Health Care, and Real Estate Finance. The goal of the seminar and fieldwork (students will be assigned to one of the bureaus for the fieldwork component) is to teach students about the authority and work of the New York Attorney General while giving them hands-on experience in public interest investigation and litigation. Students will work alongside the Assistant Attorneys General (“AAGs”) in the bureaus, working on ongoing investigations and cases, while in the seminar students explore how a case is built and engage in simulations of what AAGs do, including a deposition of a carwash operator suspected of not complying with labor laws, oral argument on whether a cigarette advertisement is targeted to juveniles, and preparation of an expert hydrogeologist to testify about hazardous waste. Students also prepare short reflection papers on their fieldwork, using them as a platform to discuss concerns that new lawyers face, such as time management, conflicting assignments, and communications with supervisors. The seminar includes class presentations and simulations, periodic short reflection papers on fieldwork, and a final paper about the student’s fieldwork.

Fieldwork
Students are placed in one of seven bureaus (more detail is available at www.ag.ny.gov):

  • The Civil Rights Bureau enforces laws protecting New Yorkers from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, source of income, or disability. The Bureau investigates and prosecutes alleged patterns of unlawful discrimination in a variety of areas. The Bureau also engages in community outreach activities to educate the public about civil rights issues.
  • The Environmental Protection Bureau plays a central role in protecting New York’s environment and public health, enforcing a zero tolerance policy against environmental threats in New York that imperil air, water, and land. The Bureau vigorously enforces both state and federal environmental laws, and is a national leader in the fight to reverse climate change. It also represents the state in legal matters related to the environment.
  • The Labor Bureau has been nationally recognized for defending labor standards in low-wage industries by aggressively enforcing the laws protecting low-wage workers, often through collaborations with community-based organizations, labor unions, and others. The Labor Bureau investigates violations of minimum wage, overtime, prevailing wage, and other critical labor laws, and brings civil and criminal prosecutions against employers who are found in violation.
  • The Health Care Bureau safeguards the rights of health care consumers statewide through investigation of and enforcement actions against insurers, providers, drug companies, and other individuals and entities that engage in fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, or illegal practices in the health care market. The Bureau provides information and assistance to thousands of New Yorkers annually, including resolution of individual consumer health-related complaints. The Health Care Bureau also educates New Yorkers about the rights and protections they have available to them under health and consumer protection laws. In addition, the Bureau advocates for legislation and policy initiatives.
  • The Charities Bureau is responsible for supervising charitable organizations to protect donors and beneficiaries of those charities from unscrupulous practices in the solicitation and management of charitable assets. The Bureau also supervises the activity of foundations and other charities to ensure that their funds and other property devoted to charitable purposes are properly used, and protects the public interest in charitable gifts and bequests contained in wills and trust agreements.
  • The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau prosecutes businesses and individuals engaged in fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, or illegal trade practices. In addition to litigating, the Bureau mediates thousands of complaints each year from individual consumers. As part of its mission, the Bureau provides information to consumers and seeks to ensure a fair and vigorous market place.
  • The Real Estate Finance Bureau regulates the offer and sale of real estate securities, including cooperative interests in realty (cooperatives, condominiums, timeshares, homeowners associations, and senior communities) and syndications under New York’s blue sky law, known as the Martin Act. The Bureau uses its statutory and regulatory authority to mandate adequate disclosure to investors of real estate securities, as well as protect purchasers and tenants affected by cooperative and condominium development. The Bureau also uses the Martin Act and the New York Executive Law to investigate complaints such as misuse of purchaser down payments, failure to complete construction, and the violation of tenants’ rights in cooperative and condominium conversions. Students also may have the opportunity to work with the new Housing Protection Unit, which is dedicated to protecting renters and preserving affordable housing throughout New York State.

Requirements and Application Process
The course will be limited to 10 students to facilitate active engagement and discussion. Eligibility is limited to students in the J.D. program.

To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected]

Bryan Bloom and Amy McFarlane​, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

This externship is only offered in the Fall semester. 

Course Description
State attorneys general have increasingly taken on the mantle of promoting economic justice through cutting-edge impact litigation and other creative legal strategies. New York has been at the forefront of this effort, and the Attorney General’s Economic Justice Division has used its broad enforcement powers on behalf of the People of the State of New York in a wide variety of areas, including challenging monopolization schemes and cartels used to raise prescription drug prices, holding internet service providers accountable for failing to deliver on their promises, protecting vulnerable consumers from unscrupulous investment advisors, empowering and rewarding “whistleblowers” that uncover fraud against New York State or local governments, and ending fraudulent business practices, among others. This course affords students the opportunity to learn and experience economic justice lawyering from the perspective of state government. The externship is comprised of a seminar and fieldwork in an Economic Justice Division bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

The Seminar
The seminar will meet for two hours each week and will be graded based on attendance, class participation, written submissions, and performance during assigned in-class presentations. The seminar will be led by Bryan Bloom, Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Bureau, and Amy McFarlane, Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Bureau. Classes will also feature guest speakers, including executive staff and bureau chiefs. Students will study the work of the Economic Justice Division in detail, discuss case studies drawn from recent enforcement work, gain familiarity with various legal issue areas, reflect on fieldwork, and develop skills in legal writing, investigatory techniques, and litigation. We will examine the role of the Attorney General in promoting economic justice from a legal, practical, and ethical perspective.

Fieldwork
The fieldwork portion of the externship will consist of placement in one of the five Economic Justice Division bureaus (Antitrust, Consumer Frauds & Protection, Internet & Technology, Taxpayer Protection, and Investor Protection), where students will devote 15 hours per week. Students will be assigned to a bureau based on interest and availability. Students will work directly with site supervisors in their assigned bureaus. Site supervisors will assist students with getting assignments in their areas of interest and balancing workload.

The work of the Economic Justice Division bureaus is described below (more detail is available at www.ag.ny.gov).

  • The Antitrust Bureau is responsible for enforcing the antitrust laws to prevent anticompetitive practices, and to promote competition in New York State. The Antitrust Bureau’s responsibilities include: using the Attorney General’s extensive investigative powers to probe into any arrangement or activity that appears to violate the antitrust laws; taking legal action to prevent or enjoin anticompetitive practices that are harmful to the public; and commencing civil or criminal actions against parties that have violated the antitrust laws to obtain damages and/or civil or criminal penalties.
  • The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection prosecutes businesses and individuals engaged in fraudulent, misleading, deceptive or illegal trade practices. As part of its mission, the Bureau provides information to consumers and seeks to ensure a fair and vigorous market place. The Bureau also drafts legislation and conducts studies and writes reports on emerging consumer problems and issues.

  • The Bureau of Internet and Technology (BIT) is committed to protecting consumers and families from new and developing online threats. As a pioneer in this field, the Office has brought cutting edge cases and entered important settlements related to a wide range of online and technology issues, including child safety, privacy, deceptive or illegal trade practices, consumer fraud, spyware, spam, discrimination, and free speech.

  • The Investor Protection Bureau is charged with enforcing the New York State securities law, commonly known as the Martin Act. The Martin Act gives the Attorney General broad law-enforcement powers to conduct investigations of suspected fraud in the offer, sale, or purchase of securities. The Bureau also protects the public from fraud by requiring brokers, dealers, securities salespersons, and investment advisers to register with the Attorney General’s Office. The Bureau’s other major responsibilities include the registration of franchisors and enforcement of the Franchise Law to protect franchisees.

  • The Taxpayer Protection Bureau investigates and brings civil actions to recover for any fraud committed against New York State or New York local governments. Frauds investigated by the Taxpayer Protection Bureau include but are not limited to: large tax frauds; frauds involving government contracts for goods or services; frauds involving government grants or government-funded social programs; and frauds involving government investments.

Important Information
The course will be limited to six students and will be open to J.D. and LL.M. candidates. There are no prerequisites for this course. Students who are in this externship are not eligible to take the NY OAG Antitrust Enforcement Externship in the Spring semester.

To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential).

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].

Bryan Bloom and Amy McFarlane, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

This externship is only offered in the Spring semester. 

Course Description
State attorneys general have increasingly taken on the mantle of antitrust enforcement. New York has been at the forefront of this effort, and the Attorney General’s Antitrust Bureau has used its broad enforcement powers on behalf of the People of the State of New York in a wide variety of areas, including challenging monopolization schemes, cartels, mergers, and other arrangements that threaten to raise prices for consumers. This course affords students the opportunity to learn and experience antitrust enforcement from the perspective of state government, and to develop skills in legal research, writing, investigative techniques, and litigation. The externship is comprised of a seminar and fieldwork in the Antitrust Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

Requirements and Application Process
To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].

Justice Rosalyn Richter, Lecturer-in-Law (2 graded academic and 2 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
This externship offers students an opportunity to represent and work directly with domestic violence survivors in civil cases under the supervision of Justice Richter and lawyers for Sanctuary for Families, a non-profit organization.  The externship will focus on economic issues including child support, spousal support, public benefits, and credit repair. 

The current economic crisis and the social isolation during the pandemic has created an increase in domestic violence and there is an urgent need for legal assistance. Sanctuary clients are facing many issues trying to obtain unemployment and public assistance benefits and need to challenge denial of benefits in some cases. In addition, there will be a significant volume of child support modification cases because the client or payor partner/spouse is now unemployed. If the law school is operating remotely, students still will be able to participate in these proceedings since both Sanctuary and the courts have remote capacity. The externship also will explore the impact of the court closures during the pandemic on domestic violence survivors’ abilities to obtain justice and students will be working on cutting edge issues arising out of the government closure orders.

The Seminar
In the weekly seminar, students will learn about the cycles of domestic violence, the economic challenges facing survivors and their children, New York Family Court and Supreme Court procedures, and enforcement mechanisms for support orders.  Students also will learn client interviewing techniques, as well as how to prepare financial statements and read tax returns.  In some cases, students may work on equitable distribution issues and learn how to find hidden assets or income. 

Fieldwork
Students will prepare clients for their court appearances, and represent them in Family and Supreme Court under supervision.  This will include preparing direct and cross examination, opening and closing statements, and any written memoranda that the court requires. Providing legal services in these economic cases is essential if survivors are to gain economic independence.  Recent studies have shown that providing survivors with appropriate benefits and support has the potential to prevent homelessness.  Although domestic violence survivors are entitled to court appointed counsel in some cases, they do not receive such counsel in most of these cases.  This externship will allow Sanctuary for Families to increase the legal services they provide to survivors and allow students to gain important practical courtroom skills.

Important Information
The course will be limited to 8 students. Eligibility is limited to students in the JD program. There are no prerequisites for this course.

To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page (https://law.columbia.edu/academics/experiential). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

Any additional questions can be sent to Susan Kraham at [email protected].