A Critical Inquiry into Public Interest Law
New York Law School’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law engages students with a dynamic program that explores the relationship between social justice and law. Impact Center faculty members are accomplished practitioners and scholars and are committed to developing socially conscious lawyers dedicated to utilizing law as an agent of social change. Impact Center faculty work closely with students to study and work in the areas of criminal justice, voting rights and political participation, racial justice, social entrepreneurship, anti-discrimination law, civil liberties, economic justice, education law, environmental law, family law, immigration law, international human rights law, labor and employment law, and mental disability law. The Impact Center offers students a diverse array of projects to bring together the theory they learn in the Center’s curriculum with practical experience in clinics, externships, project-based learning courses, and capstone projects.
The Impact Center is open to all students at New York Law School. In their first year, students are encouraged to participate in the Social Justice Salon Series, sign up for the Center mailing list, and attend Center events. Starting in their second year, students may join the Impact Center, which offers students a focused course of study and opportunities to engage in advocacy in areas of law related to social justice. The Impact Center has four basic requirements. First is the Colloquium requirement. Day division Center students satisfy this by participating in the Impact Center Colloquium and evening division students by taking Law, Public Policy, and Social Change, or an approved substitute for evening students and students on the criminal prosecution path. Second, Impact Center students will take one of four Center gateway courses. Third, students will satisfy the annual Impact Center community requirement. Finally, students will complete a Capstone experience that is linked to one of the Center’s advocacy initiatives. Impact Center students who select the Criminal Prosecution Track will follow the curricular requirements described at the end of this document.
Impact Center faculty and their areas of expertise are listed here. Impact Center faculty play several roles in the Center, including creating and supervising advocacy initiatives, participating in the Salon Series, teaching Center courses, supervising capstone projects, hosting events, sponsoring symposia, supervising Law Review notes and comments, and teaching project-based learning courses. Impact Center faculty are also available for consultation with Center students about course selection, writing projects, externships, and career plans.
To complete the Impact Center affiliation successfully, students are required to:
- Complete the Impact Center Colloquium (or approved substitution for evening students and students following a criminal prosecution path);
- Complete an approved gateway course;
- Complete the Center’s annual community requirement; and
- Fulfill the Center capstone requirement in the final year of enrollment.
These requirements are described below.
Impact Center Colloquium
All Impact Center students must satisfy the Impact Center Colloquium requirement. The Colloquium is designed to develop a sense of shared experience among Impact Center faculty and students, an awareness of problems faced by lawyers involved with social justice issues, and the ability to think critically about them. Day division students satisfy the requirement by enrolling in the Impact Center Colloquium in the fall of their second year. Evening division students satisfy it by enrolling in either the Impact Center Colloquium or in Law, Public Policy, and Social Change in any semester before they graduate.
Impact Center Colloquium: Legal Practice for Social Change (2 credits)
The Impact Center Colloquium is a required, graded, two-credit seminar exclusively for Impact Center affiliates and associates. It is taught by Impact Center faculty. All day division students must take the Colloquium in the fall semester of their second year. Evening division students may take the Colloquium at any time before they graduate. Colloquium students learn about the potential of law to effectuate social change. The class will examine different approaches to social change through law, consider critiques of these models and alternative approaches, and study organizations involved in social change through law.
Law, Public Policy, and Social Change (2 credits)
Law, Public Policy, and Social Change will challenge students to consider the various roles that lawyers play in movements for social change and the political nature of litigation, judicial decisions, and social change. Students will explore the efficacy of the law as an instrument for social change by studying past and present examples of lawyers working to advance public policy, including the work conducted by lawyers to end legal segregation of the public schools, to try to establish economic rights for poor people, and to organize the growing movement to reform education and public safety policies that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Impact Center Gateway Courses
Each Impact Center student will complete one of the following gateway courses in their second year (day division students) or before graduation (evening division students). These courses provide an overview of issues and law common to social impact lawyering.
Evening Division students: Because not all of these Gateway courses are offered in the evenings, Evening Division students may alternatively take a different course, subject to Impact Center approval. If you are an Evening Division student and would like to take a different course for your Gateway course, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your proposed course.
Annual Impact Center Community Requirement
Impact Center Students must complete at least 10 hours of Impact Center service or participation over the course of each year, which may include any of the activities listed below. Students are responsible for keeping track of their hours and reporting on their hours at the end of each semester by completing a form that will be provided. Here are the activities that may count toward the hours requirement:
- Planning, volunteering at, or attending an event. Events may include symposia organized or co-sponsored by the Impact Center; Salon Series events; events organized by Impact Center Projects and Institutes; student Capstone presentations; or other events subject to approval.
- Drafting and completing one or more blog posts that are approved for publication for the blog of the Impact Center or one of the affiliated Projects or Institutes. The current Project and Institute blogs are: JustFamilies.org, for the Diane Abbey Law Institute for Children and Families; Race2Justice for the Racial Justice Project; The Pop Tort for the Center for Justice and Democracy, and SafePassageProject.org for the Safe Passage Project.
- Other projects sponsored by the Impact Center Co-Directors, Associate and Assistant Directors or the Project and Institute Directors, or proposed by students subject to approval.
Impact Center Capstone Experience
All Impact Center students must complete a Capstone experience in their final year of enrollment. Students may choose from multiple clinical course options, or a 2-credit Capstone project with the Impact Center. These projects are designed by Center faculty and sponsored by one of the Impact Center’s advocacy initiatives. Students will select their Capstone option in the spring semester prior to their final year. Impact Center Students satisfying the Capstone requirement will make an oral presentation about their project to members of the Impact Center community at the end of the school year. The Capstone project will also include some form of written work to be assigned by the project’s faculty supervisor.
- Center for Justice and Democracy
- Criminal Justice Project
- Diane Abbey Law Institute for Children and Families
- Health Law & Patient Safety Institute
- ILaw School Pipeline Project
- Racial Justice Project
- Safe Passage Project
- South Africa and the Rule of Law
- Pro Bono Scholars Program
The Criminal Prosecution Track
Day division students who join the Impact Center and who select the Criminal Prosecution Track will be required to take the following courses, in addition to meeting the Impact Center Colloquium requirement described above:
- Professional Responsibility: Criminal Practice;
- Criminal Procedure: Investigation;
- Criminal Procedure: Adjudication;
- A third course related to criminal law; and
- One of the Criminal Prosecution Clinics (New York County, Kings County, Richmond County) with a presentation to the Impact Center community about their experience and how their work advanced social justice.
Evening students who select the Criminal Prosecution will be required to take the following courses, in addition to meeting the Impact Center Colloquium requirement described above:
- Criminal Procedure: Investigation;
- Criminal Procedure: Adjudication;
- a course that focuses on criminal prosecution (to be approved by the director of the Criminal Prosecution Track);
- and either Trial Advocacy or the Post-Conviction Innocence Project.
All students in the Criminal Prosecution Track will complete the Impact Center Community requirement, which may also include participation in the Criminal Law Society.