Economic Justice Externships

Explore economic justice externships:

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

Course Description
The Civil Litigation-Employment Externship at The Legal Aid Society is an intensive introduction to employment law issues faced by low-income workers in New York City. The substantive laws covered will include minimum wage and overtime laws, anti-discrimination laws, including criminal records discrimination, and family and medical leave laws. The externship is taught by practicing attorneys at The Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Unit and is designed to introduce students to the frequent employment law violations experienced by low-wage workers and to develop students’ litigation skills through a combination of discussion, simulation, and hands-on representation of clients with employment claims. The students will assist attorneys in the Employment Law Unit in representing clients in federal and state court and before administrative agencies, including the New York State Department of Labor, the Equal Opportunity Commission, and the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

The Seminar
Each week in the seminar portion of the course we will explore either a substantive area of employment law or a litigation skill. The seminars will be primarily focused 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
In the fieldwork placement, students will devote 15 hours per week working with attorneys in the Employment Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society. This will be a clinical, hands-on experience providing students with the opportunity to interview clients and research potential claims for their clients. If students continue the fieldwork in the Spring Semester, they may also draft charges of discrimination or wage theft to be filed at an administrative agency, complaints to be filed in state or federal court, discovery requests, discovery responses and pre-trial motions, interview witnesses, prepare clients for depositions, draft mediation statements and participate in settlement discussions. Students will develop their client interviewing and litigation skills, an understanding of the substantive employment law violations frequently experienced by low-wage workers and be exposed to practical issues confronting low-wages workers.

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.

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].

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].

Rachel Kleinman and Natasha Merle, Lecturer-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].   

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].   

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 Susan Kraham at [email protected].