Lawyering Seminars I, II and III
These three separate one-semester courses build on each other and are spread over the first two years of study. They are largely experiential, integrating areas of legal doctrine with lawyering skills in various simulated, role-playing exercises, which create ongoing feedback and individualized focus on each student's skills development. In addition to significant feedback and end-of-semester grades, each student receives a narrative evaluation of performance in six competency areas: professional responsibility, theoretic perspective, clinical judgment, communication (oral and written), legal reasoning, and management of effort. The small class size enables opportunities for students to experiment with various lawyering techniques and styles, as well as to use experiences in-role as clients and judges to critically assess the impact of a lawyer's actions.
The Lawyering Seminars' focus is on legal method, legal reasoning, legal writing, professional responsibility, lawyer-client relations, and dispute resolution (including mediation, negotiation, and litigation). The first semester concentrates on understanding the legal system, legal reasoning, writing skills, history and structure of the legal profession, an introduction to the rules of professional conduct, and an introduction to interviewing and counseling. In the second semester, the emphasis is on advanced reasoning and writing skills, formulating the theory of a case, advanced lawyer-client relations, dispute resolution theory, negotiation, advocacy, and a more in-depth examination of selected sections of the rules of professional conduct.
Topics of second-year Lawyering Seminars vary from year to year. Descriptions of the seminars offered during the past several years are listed below.
This course is a prerequisite for the third-year Defender Clinic. It acquaints students with New York criminal law, ethics, motion and trial advocacy skills, and sentencing advocacy. Students learn interviewing and counseling, draft motions and memoranda of law, investigate facts, develop case theory, prepare witnesses, formulate direct and cross-examination, and engage in various forms of oral advocacy. The semester ends with a simulated day-long hearing on a motion to suppress.
Economic Justice Project Seminar
In this seminar, students will be acquainted with the law, skills, and policy involved in public benefits administrative advocacy. Second-year students represent CUNY college students, mostly single mothers, whose educations are jeopardized by New York City's workfare policies, at administrative hearings before the New York State Department of Social Services. Students present direct testimony and documentary evidence, cross-examine opposing witnesses, make appropriate procedural and substantive evidentiary objections, and present oral and written arguments. For more information, see the Economic Justice Project page .
Engaging Bureaucracy Effectively: Urban Public Education
This course focuses on helping students develop the theoretical base, doctrinal knowledge, and practical lawyering skills needed to engage effectively with a large, urban, public bureaucracy. The delivery of public education in New York City provides a case study and internship context within which the work of the course is done. A two-hour doctrinal strand covers the right to an education; student privacy rights; student suspension rights; special education rights; and the financing of urban education. A two-hour skills and theory strand covers the theory of bureaucracy, sociology of complex organizations, case studies of the New York City public education system, community organizing skills, and strategic skills for effecting bureaucratic change from within and without (including problem-solving, balancing, and combining adversarial and non-adversarial interventions [aka carrot and stick]), expanding the pot, negotiation, benevolent co-optation, and techniques for minimizing institutional defensiveness.
International Human Rights
This course surveys human rights law, institutions, and practice issues. Taught through a combination of interdisciplinary international human rights readings, lectures, films, problems, discussions, and simulation-based oral and written exercises, students work on seminar and research projects that provide opportunities to acquire a range of skills necessary to human rights lawyering. These include client interviewing, interactive listening, legal drafting, policy and strategy analysis, and legal and cross-disciplinary research techniques using international and human rights databases and sources.
Labor Law Seminar: Arbitration and Collective Bargaining
This course teaches the skills, law, and theory of arbitration in the domain of labor disputes. The course explores the use of arbitration in collective bargaining and the other labor contexts in which it is increasingly being used. In addition to substantive law governing these two doctrinal areas, students learn processes of grievance resolution and examine the arbitration hearing, the role of the arbitrator, the union’s duty of fair representation, and the rules of evidence that apply in arbitration proceedings. Students assume the role of arbitrators in a simulated case to evaluate evidence, do legal research, and write an arbitration decision. After work on negotiation and bargaining skills, the semester ends with a comprehensive labor negotiation.
Mediation Training for Law Practice
This class is a prerequisite for the third-year Mediation Clinic, focuses on the theories of mediation, the development of mediation skills, the applications to different substantive areas, and the development of a critical lawyering perspective on the proper/improper use of this process. Students examine the stages of the mediation process and analyze the functions of the mediator in each stage of the process. Significant attention is devoted to practicing the range of skills involved in doing mediation, including opening statements; effective listening and thorough fact investigation; issue framing; agenda-setting; brainstorming; evaluation of settlement options; and drafting negotiated settlements. To permit students to explore areas of specific interest in mediation and to enable them to deepen their understanding of an area, each student designs a research topic focusing on legal or policy issues related to mediation. Each student then produces a draft and final paper in the chosen area. The course culminates in a simulated full mediation.
Trial Practice: Constitutional Litigation
This course explores the use of federal and state litigation to protect civil rights and effect institutional change. An examination of individual and class actions based on constitutional and statutory rights sets forth the basis for analysis and discussion of tactical issues, procedural requirements, legal theories, and the social and political context of litigation. By evaluating the kinds of remedies ordered by courts and the efficacy of their enforcement, students are exposed to the limitations of judicial action in effecting social and political change. Students learn advocacy strategies and trial techniques by litigating a simulated constitutional case.
Trial Practice: Tactics and Methods
This class examines the vital function litigation plays in society and the critical function the attorney performs within that system. The course introduces second-year students to the theory, skills, ethics, and tactics involved in the preparation and presentation of a case for trial. The course begins by using discrete exercises to teach the stages of trial and practice, such as opening statements, direct and cross-examination, and introduction of documents, and culminates in day-long simulated jury trials.
Writing from a Judicial Perspective
This writing-focused Lawyering seminar will address questions implicated in the drafting, analysis, and use of judicial opinions. Its focus and areas of inquiry will be of particular relevance to students considering judicial clerkships and internships and students interested in advanced advocacy. Areas of inquiry will include the nature of judicial authorship, and the roles that judicial clerks play in conceptualizing and drafting opinions; clerking and confidentiality; the audiences that judges write for, and how considerations of audience shape judicial writing; the lack of a consensus-based tradition in U.S. appellate opinions, and the issues created for advocates in interpreting and using separate opinions from a single case; the trend toward courts' drafting of "unpublished" opinions and the status of these opinions as precedent; framing law and using facts in opinion writing; the effect of precedent/revisiting stare decisis; and use of social science evidence. The course will pay close attention to the "practice" of judicial writing with assignments including drafting a bench memo and an opinion in an actual appellate case set for argument during the semester. Students in role will also hear oral argument on the case and participate in a "bench conference" to discuss the issues, the legal standards, the evidence, and the policy implications of various possible rulings. During the semester, judges visit the seminar and discuss their approaches to opinion writing. Seminar students also choose a course project, for example, a short-term placement with a judge from a New York City-area court or administrative tribunal, during which students draft a judicial writing under supervision. Participating courts have included Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Bronx Supreme Courts, Manhattan Surrogate's Court, New York City Civil and Criminal Courts, Queens and Brooklyn Family Courts, Westchester County Court, Magistrate Judges for the U.S. District Court, Southern and Eastern Districts, and the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.