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).
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:
- Externships and workshops
- Simulation courses
- Project-based learning courses
- Competition teams
- Upper-level legal writing courses
- Programs about, or including, skills
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.
Can CCP students take clinical and experiential courses or programs?
Yes. CCP actually requires students to take at least two skills courses. In addition, CCP students have 15-16 additional credits of electives available, and the CCP program encourages students “to apportion these credits among courses that will provide preparation for the bar exam, courses that will provide some specialization in practice area, and courses that will provide experience (such as clinics, simulation courses, project based learning courses, and externships).” Some clinical and experiential courses may not fit the other requirements of CCP, but many will.
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. If you want to take 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 the 24-credit Clinical Year in your third year; with 24 credits in this one course, you won’t have room for many other classes in your third year, and so you must plan your second year carefully.
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.
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 Transactional Law Clinic – Start-Ups and Nonprofits 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, our three “workshop” courses, and a few other courses including 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 5 at 4 pm, and continue through March 24 at 12 pm. If you don’t apply by the early decision date (March 24), 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, you’ll be prompted to schedule an interview when you fill out your online application.
Second, if you are interested in an externship, click on the Career Services tab,
and look for the Externships Channel. Instructions on the application process and deadlines are listed there. Please note that decisions regarding acceptance and approval to register for the course are not made until a month before the beginning of the particular semester you are applying for. As a result, you should be registering for your other classes under the presumption that you will have to make adjustments to your schedule once you have been approved.
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, you should contact that Program directly to learn how to affiliate with it.
Fifth, and finally, for all other clinical and 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 Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of Clinical and Experiential Learning or the professor. Even with such permission, the final day for dropping a binding registration course is July 7 for fall 2014 courses, and October 10 for spring 2015 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 non-clinic 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 2014-15 we will be offering approximately 20 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 2014-15 we expect to have clinics partly or entirely focused in the following fields: child protection; conservation; corporate law; criminal prosecution and defense; domestic violence; elder law; immigration; medicaid; race discrimination; restaurant regulation; school suspension; securities; tax; taxi regulation; tort litigation; unemployment insurance; and wills.
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 one of a number of New York City government administrative tribunals; mediate; arbitrate; handle transactional work for start-up corporations and/or not-for-profits; assist individuals with tax issues or wills issues; work on guardianship appointments; staff a hotline dealing with employment and health insurance questions; do community education on legal issues; or write memos or other documents on legal questions or proposals.
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 are taught by members of our full-time faculty, and based here at the Law School. These are sometimes referred to as “in-house” clinics, a term you’ll see in the OCEL Spreadsheet that’s part of this Packet. Others rely on both full-time and adjunct faculty; in the Spreadsheet these are labeled as “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” in the Spreadsheet.
Almost all of our clinics, whatever their structure, will involve you in the legal life of New York City, either in its government agencies (where several of our clinics are based) or in other law offices focused on this community, or in the courts of the city and state.
How much work is a clinic?
We offer clinics ranging from 2 credits to 24. 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?
Externships are opportunities to work in an actual law office, doing the work of that office. Your work there will be supervised by an attorney employed at that office, while you’ll also take part in a one-credit classroom component meant to help you learn as much as possible from the experience.
What kinds of externships does NYLS offer?
We offer two basic types: externships in law offices and with judges.
The Law Office Externship Program is administered by the School’s Office of Career Planning and Student Life. Students work in law offices in government agencies, public interest organizations, small law firms, or in-house counsel offices in corporations. You will earn two credits for working at the placement, while keeping a reflective journal discussing your experiences. You’ll also take part in an accompanying one-credit, pass-fail seminar addressing both general issues of learning from placements and, in smaller groups, discussing specific issues encountered by students whose placements are in related subject-matter areas.
In Judicial Externships students are placed with judges and their law clerks. Placements, earning two credits, can be with state and federal judges and federal magistrates in New York City and surrounding jurisdictions. Accompanying classroom work (1 credit) includes readings, video and discussion.
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 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 project-based learning courses?
Project-based learning courses are small classes in which a group of students, with close guidance from a faculty member, work on carrying out a project that has concrete, real-world significance or otherwise involves lawyering skills. Some of these courses are in fact clinics, and are listed in our catalog as such; project-based learning clinics usually have a narrower focus and smaller number of credits than other clinics. In the OCEL Spreadsheet, these classes are listed as “Clinic-PBL.” Other project-based learning classes aren’t clinics, in that you won’t be working on real lawyering tasks such as client representation or public policy advocacy campaigns, but you will still be very much engaged with important legal issues or skills, for example through creating a website on an important legal issue or preparing for a moot lawyering competition. In the Spreadsheet, these are the “PBL-Non-Clinic” courses.
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, is dedicated to promoting excellence in trial advocacy, and introduces students to case theory, storytelling and witness examination. It operates an intramural competition here and in the spring of 2014 will send its first team to an outside competition.
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 and persuasion more generally.
What skills programs, or programs involving skills, does NYLS offer?
This year New York Law School established the new Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills Program. This 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.
It’s important to add that NYLS’ academic Centers all have coordinated course programs of their own – and that these programs generally include (either on a required or elective basis) skills courses. 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.