Clinics, Externships, and Experiential Learning

We believe that clinics and externships are exceptional opportunities for you to learn about law and lawyering, and even about yourself.

Our Experiential Learning Guarantee

New York Law School believes that clinical and experiential learning is a critical part of legal education. We are committed to providing clinical or experiential learning opportunities for every student to be able to study and develop the skills of law practice. This sequence begins in the first year with Legal Practice, which all students take, and continues in the upper years when we offer a broad, diverse, and exciting array of courses. Most of these upper-level clinical and experiential offerings are necessarily limited in enrollment, so we cannot guarantee that you will be admitted to any particular course. New York Law School does guarantee that you will be able to participate in one of these upper-level opportunities, including co-curricular programs, if you want to do so.

In addition, New York Law School guarantees that you will be able to enroll in a clinic or externship if you want to do so, and regardless of whether you are a day or evening student. Just as with our general experiential learning guarantee, this is not a guarantee of any particular clinic or externship; you may not be able to get your first-choice class, but we do commit that you will be able to take one of these courses.[1]

We make this commitment because we believe that clinics and externships are exceptional opportunities for you to learn about law, and lawyering, and even about yourself. These courses are valuable because they are demanding; they require time and focus and when you decide to take one you should be committing to put in this level of effort. Naturally you’ll also need to be sure that you also meet whatever other requirements the school’s programs mandate (for example, for the Comprehensive Curriculum Program).

We encourage you to consult with Academic Affairs, with your faculty adviser, or with us, as early as possible, to plan your schedule.

[1] One caveat: part-time students with commitments throughout the regular work week who do not have flexibility in their schedules may not be able to participate in the externship program; we cannot send you to lawyers’ or judges’ offices if those offices are not open.

Clinical and Experiential Learning Courses

NYLS is perhaps the only law school 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 placement at the New York City Law Department’s Division of Legal Counsel, an office responsible for advice and counsel to elected and appointed officials and agencies of the City government; representation of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in administrative hearings to enforce restaurant health code inspection results; and representation of low-income individual clients with acute legal needs, for The Legal Aid Society or another legal services provider.

Among our other clinics in 2017-18 will be a wide range of criminal law clinics, on both the prosecution and defense sides. Our civil law clinics will include the Civil Rights Clinic, in which students will be introduced to civil litigation and social justice advocacy in a variety of contexts and forums by working on behalf of indigent, institutional or pro bono clients on a range of civil rights matters, including employment and housing discrimination, voting rights, educational equity, food equity, and unfair barriers to the courts. We will also be introducing a number of new clinics, including the Asylum Clinic (pending approval) in which students are trained to represent refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries, the PTO Trademark Clinic, where students consult with clients to assess the value of their inventions and the potential of obtaining patent protection, and the Education Law Clinic, where students will provide representation for low-income families whose students face exclusion from school.

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 and workshops, they may work for an outside lawyer or judge. In classroom simulations, they may practice interviewing clients or cross-examining witnesses, among other skills. Project-based learning classes offer an additional entry way into experiential education, with student work on project that may range from client representation to simulation skills work to the creation of a website on an important legal issue. Students may build their research and writing skills in upper-level writing courses by preparing 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. Last but not least, our coordinated course programs offer sets of courses that together will give you the chance for repeated and deepening exposure to important legal skills areas. These programs include the Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills Program, the new Advocacy Program (which will offer Advocacy Certificates in Civil, Criminal or Appellate Advocacy, and the Pro Bono Scholars Program.

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.