Economic Justice Externships

Explore economic justice externships:

Tashi Lhewa and Shervon Small, Lecturers-in-Law, 4 credits (2 for the seminar; 2 for fieldwork)

Course Description
Students in the Economic Justice and Empowerment Externship will help economically disadvantaged New Yorkers with consumer debt, federal and state income tax disputes, and small business needs.

Students will work with experienced practitioners with The Legal Aid Society through the Harlem Office to offer legal services that empower and provide financial stability to clients. The experience will enhance the law students’ abilities as future lawyers and increase their understanding of the economic challenges faced by lower income New Yorkers and their families, while allowing space for students to reflect on the systems—societal, economic, legal, etc.—that impact clients’ daily lives. Students will gain hands-on experience in lawyering while simultaneously helping some of the most disadvantaged civil litigants obtain critical legal assistance in State courts, U.S. Tax Court, in administrative forums, and through transactional practice.

In class, students will consider the various systems—societal, economic, legal, etc.—that impact our clients’ daily lives, will be expected to reflect on the systems and increases their understanding of the economic challenges faced by low-income New Yorkers and their families, and will critique and debate developing policies in class and consider economic justice can be attained by all. During field placements, students will gain hands-on lawyering experience helping some of the most disadvantaged civil litigants obtain critical legal assistance in State courts, U.S. Tax Court, in administrative forums, and through transactional practice.

Students will work ten+ hours a week on cases at various stages alongside experienced practitioners. They will have the opportunity to draft pleadings and participate in motion practice. Students will accompany attorneys to court and, if appropriate, negotiate settlements and/or make arguments for cases before the New York City Civil Court. In addition to individual cases, students will have the option to partake in legislative or regulatory advocacy through legal research focused on expanding economic justice.

Important Information
The course will be open to JD and LL.M candidates. There are no prerequisites for the course. 

Jackeline Solivan and Matthew Tropp (2 for the seminar; 2 for fieldwork)

Course Description
Students in the Housing Justice Externship will explore the Right to Counsel model used in summary proceedings in NYC Housing Courts. In 2017, New York City enacted the first legislation in the country establishing a Universal Access to Counsel program (UAC) also known as the Right to Counsel (RTC) for all income-eligible tenants facing eviction. During an unprecedented pandemic, New York City amended the legislation to fully implement the Right to Counsel in Housing Court eviction proceedings and termination hearings at The New York City Housing Authority more than a year earlier than the original effective date. The original five-year phase-in was cut short and the right to a free attorney in Housing Court was fully realized beginning in June 2021.

The focus of the seminar will be to delve into the RTC model in New York City while using a critical racial lens to examine the systemic racism and inherent bias of the court system especially in its high-volume courts and how the system can be improved to provide low-income New Yorkers better access to justice. We will also explore the historical significance of RTC, its implementation and compare and contrast it with other jurisdictions.

The Seminar
The seminar will explore RTC as well as learn substantive areas of New York City housing law and litigation skills. The seminar classes will include discussions about housing policy and substantive laws, will include group and individual practical exercises, and discussions of students’ experiences from their field placements.  In addition to discussion of field work experiences and interactive classroom exercises, students will engage with guest speakers from throughout The Legal Aid Society, the Housing Court, and the housing advocacy and policy community.  The guests will lend their expertise on particular subjects.

Each student will be assigned to a field placement within the Bronx Neighborhood Office at The Legal Aid Society. This will be a clinical, hands-on experience with the primary practical goal learning how to represent low-income tenants in summary proceedings in Bronx Housing Court. Students in the externship will work on real cases and learn about the different types of summary proceedings in Housing Court as well as how to issue spot and litigate appropriate defenses. They will also learn about the vast array of rental subsidies and rent arrears grants that can be accessed to preserve affordable housing in NYC. Students will be expected to dedicate an average of 10 hours each week to their fieldwork.

Important Information
The course will be open to JD and LL.M candidates.

Andrew Friedman and Kumar Rao, Lecturers-in-Law, 4 credits (2 for the seminar; 2 for field placement) 

Course Description 
This externship seminar will expose students to the varied roles that lawyers are playing in supporting community organizing, issue campaigning, and social movements, including policy innovation and experimentation in states and cities across the country. We will examine in depth the current tumultuous political and social moment, the corresponding health, climate, carceral, and economic crises, and its intersections with questions of law, power and social change.

Course content and field placement will focus on the role of law in supporting community and movement-conceived campaign and policy initiatives at the city, state and federal levels – from analyzing constraints on local authority, drafting legislation, engaging in community organizing and mobilization, to advising on political fights. Special attention will be paid to the importance of community organizing and social movements in advocating for progressive reforms and the unique role lawyers can play in supporting mobilizing for social change and building strategic broad-based coalitions to win reforms and transformation. This class will have a framework of exploring power at all levels of government and how lawyers, organizers, movements, and elected officials, can use a range of strategic tools to make change.

The externship will comprise (a) a weekly, 2-hour seminar, focused on core legal issues and academic literature bearing on social movements, state and local policymaking, law and organizing, and effective policy advocacy and (b) 10 hours per week of placement work in ongoing policy and research initiatives at a range of grassroots and progressive policy and advocacy organizations, including The Action Lab, Make the Road NY, FWD.US, the Green New Deal Network, and the Center for Popular Democracy. 

The Seminar 
The weekly seminars will be focused on core legal issues and academic literature bearing on state and local policymaking, law and organizing, and effective policy advocacy

Field Placement
Students are expected to do 11 hours per week of placement work to support ongoing policy initiatives with the Action Lab, the Center for Working Families or the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD).

Karen Cacace and Kristen Julie Ferguson, Lecturers-in- Law

5 credits (2 for the seminar; 3 for fieldwork)
Full-year course

Course Description
N.Y. Attorney General’s Office, Workers’ Rights and Civil Litigation at the Labor Bureau

This course is a year-long intensive study of Federal, New York State, and New York City employment laws paired with an externship at the Labor Bureau in the New York State Office of the Attorney General. The first semester will focus on learning the relevant laws, which will include minimum wage and overtime laws; anti-discrimination laws, including criminal records discrimination; family and medical leave laws, health and safety protections for workers, and anti-trafficking laws. The second semester will focus on building litigation skills, wherein students litigate mock cases by interviewing mock clients, drafting their complaints, presenting their cases at initial conferences before established guest judges and professionals, drafting discovery requests, and taking and defending mock depositions.

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, and will be responsible for completing relevant readings. The seminars will be focused primarily on class discussions about the specific seminar topic with oral presentations by students and by guest speakers working in the field. The seminars will also include individual practical exercises, discussed above, including client interviewing, drafting a complaint and presenting a case at a mock initial conference.

The fieldwork will be a clinical, hands-on experience allowing the students to apply the knowledge learned in the weekly seminar to enforce labor laws in New York State. It will require students to work at the Attorney General’s offices 15 hours per week and Karen Cacace, Labor Bureau Chief, and Kristen Julie Ferguson, Assistant Attorney General, will supervise the students’ fieldwork. Students will assist attorneys in the Labor Bureau with investigations into employers who have violated the employment laws, including by interviewing workers, assisting with subpoena hearings (similar to depositions) for employer witnesses, drafting briefs, aiding with document discovery, and researching for litigation filed in federal and state court.  Students will be required to submit a 10-page paper evaluating their experience in the externship each semester.

Important Information
The course will admit 6-8 students and will be open to JD and LL.M candidates. Foreign language skills, especially Spanish, are useful. There are no prerequisites to take this course. 

Bryan Bloom and Amy McFarlane, Lecturers- in-Law, 5 credits (2 for the seminar; 3 for fieldwork)

Course Description
In this externship, students will have 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. Students will work with assistant attorney generals (AAGs) in the Antitrust Bureau of the NYS Attorney General’s Office, which uses its broad enforcement powers on behalf of the People of the State of NY in a variety of areas including challenging monopolization schemes, cartels, and mergers.

The Seminar
The seminar will meet for two hours each week and will be led by the Antitrust Bureau’s Senior Enforcement Counsel, Bryan Bloom, and Deputy Bureau Chief, Amy McFarlane. Students will study the work of the Antitrust Bureau 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.

For the fieldwork portion, students are expected to work 15 hours per week. Students will work directly with their assigned Assistant Attorneys General in the Antitrust Bureau, and site supervisors will assist students with getting assignments in their areas
of interest and balancing workload.

Important Information
The course will be limited to 6 students and will be open to JD and LL.M candidates. In order to be considered for the externship, students are required to have taken, or be concurrently enrolled in, an antitrust law course, or have prior substantial experience
with antitrust law concepts.

Linday McKenzie and Monica Wagner, Lecturers-in-Law, 5 credits (2 for the seminar; 3 for fieldwork)

What does it mean to do social justice work within a government agency?  What special opportunities and challenges do attorneys in this space encounter?  Lawyers in the New York Attorney General’s Social Division grapple with these questions as they represent the people of New York on a wide range of social and environmental justice matters.  These include:

The goal of the seminar and fieldwork 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.

The Seminar
In the weekly two-hour seminar, students will explore how a case is built and engage in simulations of what Assistant Attorneys General (“AAGs”) do.  For example, in prior years, we’ve had students take the deposition of a carwash operator suspected of not complying with labor laws, present oral argument on whether a cigarette advertisement is targeted to juveniles, and prepare 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, communications with supervisors, and for broader discussions about career interests and goals. The seminar also includes class presentations and simulations, often done with the help of guests who are lead attorneys from across the agency.

Students will work alongside the AAGs in the bureaus for 15 hours per week, working on ongoing investigations and cases. Students are generally placed in one of six bureaus or units, subject to space and availability (more detail is available at

  • Civil Rights Bureau
  • Environmental Protection Bureau
  • Health Care Bureau
  • Charities Bureau
  • Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau
  • Hate Crimes Unit

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