Family and Immigration Defense Externships

Explore family and immigration defense externships:

Katherine Buckel and Mia Unger, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic, 3 ungraded fieldwork credits, and Minor Writing Credit (upon consultation), which must be registered separately with Registration Services)

This externship is only offered in the Fall semester

Course Description
The Immigration Defense Externship provides students with the unique opportunity to work on removal cases pending before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, an agency which includes the New York Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Students will participate in case strategy and prepare cases for trial, including preparing affidavits, direct examination, and cross-examination. Depending on their supervising attorneys’ caseloads, students may also have the opportunity to appear before the Immigration Court. Taught by practicing attorneys of The Legal Aid Society, the Immigration Defense Externship is designed to introduce students to U.S. immigration laws and policies through a combination of lecture, discussion, simulation, and hands-on representation of immigrants facing deportation from the United States. The focus of the Externship is the interaction between federal immigration laws and federal and state criminal laws.

The Seminar
The weekly seminars will complement the students’ fieldwork with a practice-oriented examination of the interaction between immigration law and criminal law. The seminars will also include trial preparation and strategy development, including developing a theory of the case. The seminars will also explore the government’s policies in this area and their impact on immigrant communities through class discussions and presentations by guest speakers from the Immigration Court, criminal defense attorneys, and attorneys from Legal Aid's Federal Practice. In the seminars, students will also have the opportunity to discuss their fieldwork, including the ethical challenges arising from client interviewing and representation.

The course is graded based on attendance and participation in the seminar, three short reflection papers, and participation in a mock interview and mock hearing. Minor writing credit is available upon consultation.

In the fieldwork placements, students will be expected to devote at least 15 hours per week. Students will undertake various tasks, which may include interviewing clients, participating in trial preparation and litigation strategy meetings, researching complex legal issues, drafting memoranda of law, and appearing before the Immigration Court. Through a comprehensive client-centered approach, students will work with one or more attorneys, and at times with social workers and/or paralegals, to assess, research, and prepare each client's case.

Requirements and Application Process
Enrollment is limited. Open to 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLM students. Skills in languages other than English, especially Spanish, preferred. Exposure to immigration and criminal law preferred.

To apply, please complete the externship application available through LawNet. The application period can be found on the Experiential Learning home page ( 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. 

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. 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 ( 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]

Cristina Romero and Amy Pont, Lecturers-in-Law (2 graded academic and 3 ungraded fieldwork credits)

This externship is only offered in the Spring semester

Course Description
The Immigrant Youth Advocacy Externship will teach students the complexities of immigration law as they practice under the close supervision of expert attorneys. Your goal will be to obtain immigration status for Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth. You will interview clients, determine if they are eligible to remain in the United States legally, appear as their lawyer in immigration court and family court, draft memorandum of law and affidavits, and file applications for legal status. You will be working with several clients during the semester.

Students will be placed at the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit where they will learn zealous advocacy through direct representation of children. The Legal Aid Society’s coordinated and comprehensive approach to representation means that students are likely to be exposed to other areas of law and practices by working with lawyers in other divisions. The Juvenile Rights Practice’s client-directed approach provides the framework that ensures the client’s wishes prevail throughout representation. Collaboration with Juvenile Rights likewise ensures access to important services such as education and counseling. Students will work with The Criminal Defense Practice to avoid convictions that result in their client’s deportation. Students may also work with the appellate units in these practice areas, if necessary. Students are encouraged to attend all hearings and develop relationships with other professionals whenever possible. Through direct client representation, the externship will build essential lawyering skills in the following areas:

Youth Representation:

  • Explore adolescent development and the effects of trauma.
  • Determine goals of representation.
  • Service collateral needs: e.g., counseling, education, healthcare, and tax.

Litigation Skills:

  • Formulate the theory of the case.
  • Zealous oral advocacy and courtroom demeanor.
  • Effective legal writing versus narrative drafting.

Interviewing and Communication Skills:

  • Develop rapport, gain trust, and foster open dialogue with clients.
  • Active listening to gather relevant facts.
  • Confidentiality and the attorney-client relationship.
  • Questioning techniques: e.g., open-ended, leading, and yes-no.

Relationship Building with Clients:

  • Manage client expectations and maintain boundaries.
  • Consistent contact and appraisal of case status with client.
  • Identify client needs and implement creative solutions.

Multi-System Advocacy and Ethical Considerations:

  • Reconcile tensions between the federal regulatory state and state common law.
  • Negotiate issues arising out of the criminal court and delinquency matters.
  • Utilize international norms and treaties to promote the rights of the child.
  • Recognize ethical issues when they arise and apply relevant rules to reach an appropriate resolution.

The Seminar
The seminar will explore the intersection of immigration law, family law, and criminal law. It will analyze the ethical challenges representing unaccompanied minors present and deconstruct the U.S. government’s immigration policies and their impact on communities.

Working under the supervision of two attorneys, up to eight externs will provide legal services to these children, including representing them at hearings in family court and immigration court. The externship will consist of 15 hours per week at The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit under the supervision of Tina Romero and other attorneys in the Youth Project. Any hours spent at court will count toward the fieldwork requirements.

Requirements and Application Process
Enrollment is limited to eight students and will be open to JD and LL.M candidates. 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 ( 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].