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.

Seminar
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.

Fieldwork
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.

Fieldwork
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, Dmitri Holtzman, and Kumar Rao, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 2 ungraded fieldwork credits)

Course Description
The Law, Power, and Social Change Externship will expose students to the varied and important roles that lawyers are playing in policy experimentation and innovation in states and cities across the country. Course content and fieldwork will focus on the roles lawyers can play in supporting community-conceived policy initiatives at the city and state level, from analyzing constraints on local authority to drafting policy proposals to engaging in the political fight to win passage. Substantive issues covered in the seminar, and the fieldwork assignments, will include workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights and immigration reform, civil rights and racial justice issues, health care access, and more.

The externship will comprise (a) a weekly, 2-hour seminar, focused on core legal issues and academic literature bearing on state and local policymaking and effective policy advocacy and (b) 10 hours per week of fieldwork in ongoing policy initiatives with the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD).

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

Fieldwork
Students are expected to do 10 hours per week of fieldwork in ongoing policy initiatives with the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD).

Grading 
Students will receive four credits total, two graded academic credits for the in-class seminar and two ungraded credits for the fieldwork component. The seminar will be graded on weekly class participation, class presentations and simulations, periodic short reflection papers on readings and fieldwork, and a final term paper.

Requirements and Application Process
The course will be open to J.D. and LL.M. candidates and will be limited to 10 students to facilitate active engagement and discussion. There are no prerequisites.

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].

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.

Fieldwork
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 (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 advisers, 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 anti-competitive 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). Prospective applicants may be contacted for an interview once all applications have been submitted.

Any additional questions can be sent to Liliana Vaamonde at LVaamonde@law.columbia.edu.

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 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, protecting vulnerable consumers from unscrupulous investment advisors, among others. This course affords students the opportunity to learn and experience economic justice lawyering from the perspective of state government. 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 Bryan Bloom and Amy McFarlane, Assistant Attorney Generals in the Antitrust Bureau. 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.

Fieldwork
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 six students and will be open to J.D. and LL.M. candidates. In order to be considered for the externship, students are required to have taken, or be concurrently enrolled in, Antitrust 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].