Please use this page to search the most frequently asked questions about the Office of Clinical and Experiential Learning.
What is “clinical and experiential learning”?
“Clinical and experiential learning” is the study of how to be a lawyer. Of course, every class in law school is part of the study of how to be a lawyer, but clinical and experiential classes focus on learning about a wide range of practice skills, many of them not usually covered in courses focused on legal doctrine, such as interviewing, counseling, negotiation, mediation, arbitration and trial advocacy. In addition, clinical and experiential classes ask you to learn by doing – whether in simulations constructed to address particular situations and skills, or in the unruly context of real legal matters. One more important point: clinical and experiential courses are also about legal doctrine, legal reasoning and legal writing, skills you will inevitably need to use as you also explore other aspects of lawyering.
New York Law School’s clinical and experiential courses are organized under the mantle of the Office of Clinical and Experiential Learning (OCEL). The new Joe Plumeri Center for Social Justice and Economic Opportunity provides us with an extraordinary physical space that houses NYLS’s in-house legal clinics, makes possible extensive simulation training in both the first-year Legal Practice program and upper-level courses, and includes a moot court room with an accompanying jury deliberation room. It enhances every aspect of NYLS’s training in practical lawyering skills.
What kinds of clinical and experiential learning opportunities does NYLS offer?
We have developed a diverse range of opportunities, all of which are discussed in this FAQ memo. They include the following:
(2) Externships and workshops
(3) Simulation courses
(4) Project-based learning courses
(5) Competition teams
(6) Upper-level legal writing courses
(7) Coordinated, multi-course skills programs
Who should take clinical and experiential courses or programs?
Clinical and experiential courses can be useful for every student. Some courses, including most (but not all) clinics, must be scheduled as daytime rather than evening courses, because the work done in them is carried out in offices or courts that are not open in the evenings. But many of our courses and programs can certainly be taken by evening students, and we encourage every student – day and evening – to look into these opportunities.
How should I decide which clinical and experiential courses and programs to take?
This is an important question and calls for an extended answer.
First, learn about the different kinds of clinical and experiential courses and programs. This FAQ memo will help you do that; so will the OCEL website.
Second, think about what else you want to take. You have approximately 56 upper-year credits as a day student entering your second year, and approximately 52 as an evening student after you finish the required courses lasting through the middle of your second year. With those credits you’ll want to shape the program that gives you the best overall education – and also, of course, meets specific requirements in the curriculum, such as taking Evidence and Professional Responsibility. You may want to explore several potential practice areas, or to work deeply in just one, and you may want to take some courses for bar preparation. And you may want to choose clinical and experiential courses that complement the doctrinal classes you are taking; skills courses and doctrinal ones can enhance and build on each other.
One part of thinking about what else you want to take is simply making sure you have the credits available to take the courses you want at the right time. For example, if you are interested in taking a demanding, high-credit clinic in your third year (as a day student), you’ll certainly need to make sure you take care of other important courses in your second year. This is especially the case if you take a full-time immersion course in your third year; we have two of them, the Clinical Year (not offered in 2016-17), in which you work in three full- time placements through the year, and the Pro Bono Scholars Program, in which you take the bar in February of your third year and then go on to a full-time placement afterwards. (It’s also possible to combine these two programs.) If you these courses, you will need to make sure that you select your second-year courses carefully, because you won’t have room for many other classes in your third year.
Third, consider choosing clinical and experiential courses so that you develop your skills in the second year and then build on what you’ve learned in a more ambitious class in the third year. This kind of progression may be harder for evening students to arrange, but it’s worth keeping in mind for everyone. For example, in your second year you might take a simulation course or an externship; both of those give you experience with legal skills but usually not in contexts where you are the person primarily responsible for a client’s wellbeing. Then in your third year you might take a clinic in which you do undertake the actual representation of clients. But this isn’t the only way to proceed; our high-credit clinics in a sense build this progression into a single course, by combining classroom skills training with simultaneous casework experience.
Fourth, you may want to use your clinical and experiential learning classes not to build skills step by step, or not only to do this, but also to widen your experience of the legal profession. You might take two law-office externships, for example, in two different fields, and then take a clinic in a third field. Or you might take a simulation course in Trial Advocacy and then a clinic in mediation.
Fifth, if you are thinking about affiliating with a Center, you should definitely check with the Center directors about its program requirements. Many Centers encourage or require some clinical or experiential work, but you’ll likely want to pick those particular clinical or experiential courses that fit with the subject matter of your Center and its course requirements. If you join the Center for Business and Financial Law, for instance, you might want to take the Social Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic or the Securities Arbitration Clinic; for other Centers, other courses would offer the best fit.
Later in this FAQ memo we describe each of the various types of clinical and experiential courses and programs.
How do I apply to clinical and experiential courses and programs?
Different courses and programs have somewhat differing application processes, which we’ll describe here. (If you’re confused about what any of these courses or programs are, please read on in this memo; we describe each of them in questions and answers later on.)
First, all of our clinics, and Advocacy of Criminal Cases (an intensive simulation course), have a special application process. If you are interested in one of these courses, we encourage you to apply through our online application system (go to www.nyls.edu/ocelapplication), which will open on March 21 at 4 pm, and continue through April 5 at 12 pm. Students who apply by April 5, 12 noon, will be the first students considered for available places in these courses, and some of our courses will likely fill all of their available slots from these applicants. If you don’t apply by 12 noon on April 5, however, you can still submit applications, and you may then be able to get into courses that still have openings, or you may be placed on a wait list for those courses which are oversubscribed. Some faculty members teaching these courses will want to interview applicants before deciding who to place in their class; if so, when you fill out your online application you’ll be prompted to schedule an interview.
Second, if you are interested in an externship, go to the Portal and click on the Career Resources tab, Externships. Instructions on the application process for externships, and deadlines, are provided there.
Third, competition teams, which are “co-curricular” activities rather than courses (though in some you can earn credits towards graduation), each have their own application process. You should check with the faculty advisor or student leaders of the teams you’re interested in for details.
Fourth, if you are interested in the Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills Program, which Adjunct Professor Peter Phillips directs, or the Advocacy Program, which Professor Mariana Hogan directs, you should contact Professor Phillips or Professor Hogan directly to learn how to affiliate with their Programs.
Fifth, if you are interested in enrolling in the Pro Bono Scholars Program (in which you take the bar exam in February of your third year and then spend the rest of that semester in a full-time pro bono placement, with an accompanying class here at NYLS). Apply to the Program here: https://nyls.wufoo.com/forms/pro-bono-scholars-application-2017/ . For questions, please check with Swati M. Parikh, Director of Public Service Careers, 212.431.2160, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sixth, and finally, for all other experiential courses you should register in the same way as you would for any other NYLS course
Is registration for these courses binding?
All of the courses for which you apply through the OCEL online application system (described above) are binding registration. That means that if you are accepted into the course, and then register for it, you may drop the course only under extraordinary circumstances and with the permission of the Professor teaching the course and Director of Clinical Programs, Prof. Frank Bress (email@example.com). Even with such permission, the final day for dropping a binding registration course is July 17 for Fall 2017 courses, and October 16 for Spring 2018 courses.
Certain OCEL courses that don’t require you to apply through the online application system are nevertheless also binding registration courses, notably our simulation courses and some project- based learning courses.
What are clinics?
Clinics are courses in which you have the chance to practice law or to work on real lawyering tasks with the close guidance and supervision of faculty members and attorney mentors. In 2016-17 we will be offering approximately 18 clinics.
Are there different types of clinics?
Yes. Clinics differ in several ways, including the substantive area of law you will work in, the type of legal work you will do in that area of law, and the structure of the teaching and supervision you will receive.
What are the substantive areas of law in which I can take a clinic?
In 2017-2018 we expect to have clinics partly or entirely focused in the following fields: civil rights and race discrimination; corporate law; criminal prosecution and defense; cyberbullying; education law; elder law; immigration; intellectual property; post-conviction innocence cases; securities; tax; tort litigation; and veterans’ issues.
What are the different kinds of legal work I can do in a clinic?
Our clinics include classes where you may litigate criminal or civil cases, or parts of cases, in court; litigate matters in a New York City government administrative tribunals; represent a party in arbitration; conduct a mediation; represent low income students facing suspensions from NYC Public Schools; advise clients about obtaining patents for their inventions; represent entrepreneurs in applying for trademarks; represent immigrant clients and argue cases in NY Immigration Court; handle transactional work for start-up not-for-profits; assist with tax issues; work on guardianship appointments; help represent low-income veterans facing many legal problems; work on legislative and public policy advocacy; and of course write memos or briefs or other documents on a range of legal matters.
Will I be representing clients in a clinic?
In most clinics, yes, and client representation is a central part of clinical learning. But not all real lawyering tasks are carried out on behalf of clients, and some of our clinics reflect this. You might work, for example, on a public policy advocacy campaign, in which you wouldn’t have a client at all.
How is the teaching and supervision in clinics structured?
Every clinic includes both work on legal matters and an accompanying classroom seminar. Some NYLS clinics, the “in-house clinics,” are typically taught by members of NYLS’ core clinical faculty and based here at the Law School . Others rely on both full-time and adjunct faculty; these are “hybrid” clinics. Others are taught by adjuncts and are based in those faculty members’ law offices outside of the law school; these are “placement clinics”.
Almost all of our clinics, whatever their structure, will involve you in the legal life of New York City, on behalf of New York City residents, sometimes in work in the City’s own agencies (where several of our clinics are based), or in the courts of the city and state.
How much work is a clinic?
We offer clinics ranging from 2 credits (the Conservation Law and Policy Clinic, to 26 (if you combine the Clinical Year (not offered in 2016-17) with the Pro Bono Scholars Program). Most are in between.
Are clinics offered for just one semester, or do they cover the full year?
We have clinics of both types.
What are externships?
Students in the Externship courses earn law school credits while working with judges and lawyers on real cases. Externships are a great way to learn by doing. Externs develop lawyering skills, gain real world experience, and make valuable connections. Students earn 2 credits for working 140 hours at their placements and all externs participate in a 1-credit seminar and complete assignments designed to enhance their learning. The program is administered jointly by OCEL and the School’s Office of Academic Planning and Career Development. NYLS has a wide variety of placements available on Symplicity each semester and students are also encouraged to seek other opportunities and propose them for credit.
What kinds of externships does NYLS offer?
Through NYLS’s Law Office Externship Program, law office externs work with lawyers in small firms, government agencies, public interest organizations and corporations.
In Judicial Externships, judicial externs work with judges and their clerks at nearby courthouses.
What are workshops?
Workshops are similar to externships, except that all of the students in a workshop are placed in offices handling cases in the particular field the course addresses. In addition, all workshops have a two-credit, graded seminar component. The workshops next year will include classes in Financial Services, Immigration Practice and International Human Rights.
What is the difference between a clinic and an externship or workshop?
Like many legal terms, clinics and externships/workshops do have some overlap. Both involve your working on real legal matters. But as a general matter the legal work you do in clinics is under the supervision, usually the direct supervision, of an adjunct or full-time member of the New York Law School faculty. In externships and workshops, the legal work you do is supervised by an attorney at the placement, but he or she is not a member of the school’s faculty. Because of the more prominent role of faculty members, clinics as a general proposition offer more intensive study accompanying your practical experience than externships do. There are other differences, and you should talk with faculty from the courses you are interested in to learn more. Both kinds of courses offer valuable experience, and quite often that experience is unique – a clinic won’t give you the experience an externship will, and vice versa.
What are simulation courses?
Simulation courses offer you the chance to learn lawyering skills in a controlled setting, in which exercises can be shaped to provide you with challenging tasks from which to learn, but without the potential consequences of affecting an actual client’s well-being. Many New York Law School classes, beginning with Legal Practice in the first year, include simulations as part of the process of learning. A number of classes, however, make simulations and lawyering skills particularly central. Some of these are offered by the school’s academic Centers, and focus on the skills and law involved in particular legal fields. Those under the umbrella of the Office of Clinical and Experiential Learning usually focus on more generalized skills: pre-trial, trial and appellate advocacy, alternative dispute resolution, negotiation, client counseling, and interviewing.
What are competition teams?
New York Law School now offers three skills competition team programs, each of which is organized by students with the close involvement of faculty advisors. The NYLS Dispute Resolution Team members represent the school in local, regional and national competitions in such skills as client interviewing and counseling, negotiation, mediation and arbitration. The Moot Court Association, a part of NYLS for many years, focuses on well-honed appellate oral advocacy and brief-writing, and takes part in a variety of competitions in different fields of law elsewhere in the country as well as hosting a competition here at NYLS. Our newest competition group, the NYLS Trial Competition Team, sponsors in-house trial advocacy and closing argument competitions. The team also has competed in the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition and the Queens County District Attorney’s Mock Trial Competition and is looking forward to expanding its participation in inter-school competitions.
What are the upper-level writing courses?
The upper-level writing electives program gives students additional, and practice-minded, training in the fundamental skills of good writing: clarity, precision, and good organization. The object is to train professionals to analyze legal issues and communicate that analysis to others. That means students learn analysis of statutes and case law, the relationship of the law to the case at hand, document and citation format, and the other special techniques needed to communicate with a legal audience. Several of these courses are directly focused on the sorts of documents lawyers (or judges) actually prepare in practice, including contracts, corporate documents, legislation, real estate documents, briefs and memoranda, and judicial opinions. Others address writing skills more generally.
What are the coordinated, multi-course skills programs that NYLS offers?
The Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills Program teaches practical skills in the field of conflict avoidance, management and resolution. Students will take introductory courses in each of three central alternative dispute resolution processes – negotiation, mediation and arbitration – as well as additional electives, and will earn a Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
The new NYLS Advocacy Program will offer students interested in litigation the opportunity to earn an Advocacy Certificate in Civil, Criminal or Appellate Advocacy. This program will offer students guidance about how to combine skills courses with writing and doctrinal courses to develop proficiency in an area of litigation.
The Pro Bono Scholars Program, initiated by New York State’s former Chief Judge Lippmann, is not literally a “multi-course” program, but it is similarly ambitious in its scope. In this program, students can take the bar examination in February of their third year, and then go on to do 12 weeks of full-time pro bono work in the remainder of the spring semester, while taking part in a two-credit accompanying class.
It’s important to add that NYLS’ academic Centers all have coordinated course programs of their own – and that these programs generally include skills courses, either on a required or elective basis. Legal practice requires both doctrinal knowledge and practice know-how, and you may find it very helpful to follow the courses of study provided by the Centers.