Constitutional and Affirmative Litigation Externships

Explore constitutional and affirmative litigation externships:

George Kendall, Corrine Irish, and Jenay Nurse, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 2 ungraded fieldwork credits)

This externship is only offered in the Fall semester

Course Description
In this externship, students will explore how federal constitutional rights are enforced—or not enforced—in capital and life imprisonment cases. Students will learn the procedural and substantive legal doctrines applicable to obtaining relief from an unconstitutional conviction or sentence. Students will also be assigned to work within the unique public service practice group of a commercial law firm—the Squire Patton Boggs Public Service Initiative (PSI)—where they will work on behalf of indigent clients challenging death sentences or life imprisonment. PSI adopts a strategy of broad-based advocacy on behalf of their clients that can include individual and impact litigation, policy reform, and media advocacy. Students will learn a multidimensional approach to advocacy that may include providing legal, political, record-based, and/or media/social media research; conducting fact investigation and analysis; or assisting with trial/hearing prep. Through coursework and fieldwork, students will gain an understanding of both the doctrinal and practical aspects of this important area of criminal constitutional law—often the subject of political attack—and students will also develop as advocates in challenging the harshest punishments in the country and the world.

George Kendall, who heads PSI, and PSI attorneys Corrine Irish and Jenay Nurse, will jointly teach the course and supervise fieldwork.

The Seminar
The weekly seminar will ordinarily meet at Squire’s midtown offices in Rockefeller Center on Friday from 1 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. Occasionally, the class may meet at Columbia Law School (for example, when a guest speaker’s presentation would be of interest to a large portion of the law school community). The weekly seminar will utilize court decisions, legislative activity, related research, and PSI case materials to explore how the enforcement of constitutional rights operates both in theory and in practice. The focus will be on understanding the constitutional rights implicated in the capital and serious criminal prosecutions and understanding how post-conviction doctrines facilitate or fail to facilitate their enforcement. Students will also develop advocacy skills through in-class exercises that engage students in the oral and written advocacy required of practicing attorneys and policymakers in this field.

Fieldwork
Our litigation practice focuses primarily on capital and serious criminal cases in the Southeast. Fieldwork will be devoted to indigent PSI clients, or to counsel of record or amici supporting indigent petitioners before the Supreme Court. Students will be assigned to an attorney’s case team in groups of two or three. While the exact nature of the work a particular student is involved in will vary depending on the particular needs of a case at the time, in the past, students have:

  • Assisted in jury selection research for death-penalty resentencing (we obtained reversal of original death sentence in the 11th Circuit, and the client was resentenced to life).
  • Conducted expert witness and fact witness preparation for Schlup innocence hearing in Virginia.
  • Assisted with expert witness preparation in state post-conviction hearing in death penalty case in Arkansas.
  • Prepared drafts of motions in state and federal court and petitions for certiorari in state and U.S. Supreme courts.

Travel is possible for interested students, but not a requirement of the externship.

Requirements and Application Process
Students will receive four credits: two graded credits for the weekly seminar and two ungraded credits for fieldwork. Grades for the seminar will be based upon class participation, advocacy assignments, class presentations, and the quality and timeliness of written assignments. We recommend that students take Evidence, Criminal Procedure, and/or Federal Courts prior to, or concurrently with, 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). 

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

Rachel Kleinman and Natasha Merle, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
The Racial Justice Externship (RJE) will engage students in legal practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation’s premier civil rights law organization, and in a critical examination of strategies employed to achieve racial equity and justice in two of our principal areas: economic justice and voting rights and democratic governance. LDF Students will be assigned to work on a case or matter in one of these two areas and will have an opportunity to contribute to the development and execution of comprehensive legal strategies, that may include impact litigation, policy/advocacy, strategic communications, public education and organizing. Additionally, because it is a presidential election year, all students will participate in national voter protection work organized by LDF. 

The Seminar
The weekly seminars will introduce students to multiple phases of litigation and advocacy surrounding systemic race claims, specifically in the areas of political participation and economic justice. This includes investigations of race discrimination issues, drafting of pleadings and other substantive filings, legal research and memo writing and participation in active discovery. In addition, students will develop a historical knowledge regarding the country’s foundation and the impact of this foundation on modern legal frameworks and on movements for racial justice.  

Fieldwork
Fieldwork will be performed on LDF cases or matters under the supervision of an LDF attorney or externship professor. Students are required to commit 10-15 hours per week to fieldwork and to participate in weekly meetings with their LDF Team. In addition, as part of their fieldwork, students will be provided appropriate case/matter-related public speaking opportunities and given the opportunity to travel on their cases/matters, as needed and as consistent with their academic obligations.

Important Information
The course will be limited to 8 students and will be open to JD and LL.M candidates. Students in the course are required to have taken or concurrently take Constitutional Law.

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].   

Carrie DeCell, Lecturer-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
The externship will center on the Knight Institute’s strategic litigation efforts to define and defend First Amendment freedoms in the digital age. Students will work in collaboration with, and under the close supervision of, experienced First Amendment lawyers. They will focus on the Knight Institute’s current litigation docket, including cases relating to public officials’ use of social media, the rights of digital journalists and researchers to investigate social media and other online platforms, government surveillance of individuals’ online speech, and restraints on speech by government employees and whistleblowers.

The Seminar
The weekly classroom component of the externship will consist of a one-hour litigation meeting and a one-hour seminar, both held at the Knight Institute’s offices in the Interchurch building, located at 475 Riverside Drive. During the weekly litigation meetings, students will engage with Knight Institute attorneys in analyzing the merits and strategic value of new cases under consideration. The weekly seminar class will provide a theoretical and doctrinal foundation for the students’ work at the Knight Institute. Students will be required to submit response papers relating to the readings for each class and be expected to participate thoughtfully and respectfully in class discussions.

Fieldwork
The externship will afford students an opportunity to work closely with Knight Institute attorneys in developing cutting-edge First Amendment challenges. Students will draft substantive research memoranda to be assigned by Knight Institute attorneys. In addition, they will participate in team meetings; conduct spot legal research; review government records and policies; and/or draft blog posts or other public communications. 

Course Evaluation
Students will be evaluated on the basis of two substantive research memoranda, or a series of memoranda collectively requiring roughly the same amount of research and writing, as well as short response papers submitted before each seminar class and attendance and participation in class discussion.

Requirements and Application Process
The course will be limited to 6 students and will be open to JD and LL.M candidates. 

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].

Doris Bernhardt and Steven Louis, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 2 ungraded fieldwork credits)

This externship is only offered in the Spring semester. 

Course Description
In this externship, students will gain firsthand experience working on litigation matters, transactional matters, or policy matters for the City of New York. The New York City Law Department handles the City’s litigation, offers advice and counsel to the Mayor, the City Council, and City agencies, and represents the City in development deals. In the past, students have drafted legislation, participated in development deals, drafted memoranda of law and litigation documents, including complaints and answers, joined City attorneys in meetings with government officials, and assisted at legislative hearings, depositions, or trials. Each student will be assigned to work at a division at the NYC Law Department for a minimum of 10 hours per week, working on issues such as lawsuits challenging the validity of the City’s regulatory laws; litigation in which the City is a plaintiff; economic development projects; discrimination, retaliation, or other employment-related claims; legislation and counseling; or juvenile delinquency matters.

The Seminar
In the seminar, students will explore the legal, policy, and ethical questions that New York City and its lawyers face. The seminar will include guest speakers and will focus on significant cases and issues that the New York City Law Department is handling or has handled, such as health policy, large economic development deals, and corrections reforms. The seminar will also review the structure of New York City’s government; the City’s lawmaking authority and processes; the tools available to City attorneys; how different parties both inside and outside of City government may influence City policy and practice; and the role of City lawyers in representing the City’s interests. For the final paper, each student will submit a proposal for a change in City law or policy and will present recommendations to the class.

Fieldwork
Each student will be assigned to one division for the duration of the course. Potential division assignments include:

  • Administrative Law: Represents the City in lawsuits that challenge the validity of its regulatory laws and the policies and decisions of the administrative agencies charged with carrying them out. Also brings civil actions and criminal proceedings against individuals and corporations that violate the City's regulatory requirements.
  • Affirmative Litigation: Represents the City in litigation in which the City is a plaintiff. Subject areas include commercial disputes; hazardous products claims; civil racketeering and fraud claims; nuisance and restitution claims; antitrust claims; and challenges against the State and federal governments on matters such as funding for public benefits programs and education.
  • Economic Development: Acts as the City’s business and transactional counsel for a wide range of projects that are intended to enhance the City’s economic base either by generating direct revenue for the City treasury or by strengthening the City’s tax base and general economic health.
  • Family Court: Handles the City’s juvenile delinquency prosecutions (children ages 7 to 15). The offenses prosecuted range from shoplifting and graffiti to more serious crimes such as assault, robbery, sex offenses, and homicide. Dispositions in Family Court focus on rehabilitation and providing appropriate services in addition to public safety.
  • Labor and Employment: Represents the City in federal and state court in litigation arising out of the City’s role as the employer of more than a quarter-million workers. Cases most frequently concern claims of discrimination or retaliation in violation of federal, state, or local anti-discrimination laws; First Amendment free speech rights of municipal employees; and claims by both individual City employees and unions based on collective bargaining agreements and State civil service law.
  • Legal Counsel: Provides advice to the Mayor’s Office and City agencies regarding the legal implications of policy initiatives and administrative reforms, as well as other legal matters. Reviews and assists in drafting City-sponsored proposed state and local legislation, and administrative rules proposed by City agencies.

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].

Monica Wagner and TBD, 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.

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.

Requirements and Application Process
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.

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].