Civil Litigation Externships

Explore civil litigation externships:

Karen Cacace and Jessica Clarke, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic credits and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
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].

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

This externship is only offered in the Spring semester

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. Enrollment is open to 2Ls, 3Ls, and LL.M.s. 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].