Clinical and Experiential Learning Courses
Building on the first-year Legal Practice course, New York Law School offers a rich array of classes and programs that can broaden students’ ability to perform core lawyering tasks. These opportunities include clinics; externships and workshops; project-based learning courses; simulation courses; upper-class writing electives; and competition teams.
The Law School has been expanding these programs—most dramatically, with the launch of 13 new clinics in 2013-14, doubling its clinical offerings. As Dean Anthony Crowell wrote to the NYLS student body in the spring of 2013:
“Now more than ever, gaining meaningful practical experience while in law school is critical to ensuring you can be as well-prepared as possible to enter and compete in the job market, no matter what your goal.”
NYLS is one of the only law schools in the country to offer a clinical year. The Law School’s Clinical Year program, new in 2013-14, builds on the medical school model. Students spend their entire third year (30 weeks) in three 10-week, full-time, clinical rotations. The experiences will include drafting legislation and helping to provide advice and counsel to elected and appointed officials, and agencies, at the Division of Legal Counsel at the New York City Law Department; assisting in civil litigation matters at the Legal Aid Society; and working on administrative law matters at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Other new clinics include: the Transactional Law Clinic—Start-Ups and Nonprofits, where students provide pro bono transactional legal services for under-resourced start-up businesses, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit entities in New York City, and the Child Welfare Clinic, where students work at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), representing ACS in matters involving child welfare, including abuse and neglect cases, permanency hearings, emergency hearings on applications for return of children from placements, and more.
At the heart of all of these programs is the opportunity to learn by doing. In clinics, students may work directly on cases or transactions or advocacy campaigns. In externships, they may work for an outside lawyer or judge. In classroom simulations, they may practice interviewing clients or cross-examining witnesses, among other skills. Students may build their research and writing skills by writing the sorts of documents, from contracts to briefs, for which they may be responsible in actual practice later on. Students may also join one of our competition teams, whether traditional moot court (focused on appellate advocacy) or newer teams focused on such skills as interviewing, negotiation, and trial advocacy.
These classes and activities offer training in skills. They also offer training in legal reasoning and analysis, which students will have the chance to practice and refine in the context of each legal problem they address—often the problems of a real or simulated client. Lawyers employ their skills on actual problems and controversies, and for law students the experience of performing as lawyers—whether counseling a client, for example, or making a presentation to a public interest law organization—can be a powerful way to learn what lawyers do.
In addition, many of these programs give students direct experience in different areas of practice, where they will encounter the legal professionals working in those areas. All of them may be of real assistance in a job search.
Additionally, a student’s work in many of these classes may help him or her satisfy the New York Court of Appeals’ new requirement of 50 hours of pro bono legal work as a prerequisite for admission to the New York bar. Students should, of course, check with the professor teaching any course they’re interested in to learn more about whether work in that particular course is likely to help them meet this requirement.