By Tania Karas

May 17, 2013 New York Law Journal - In a move aimed at boosting students' practical lawyering skills and better preparing them for a tough job market, six law schools in New York are bolstering their clinical courses in the upcoming school year.

The Benjamin A. Cardozo School of Law, New York University School of Law, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, Cornell Law School, Touro Law Center and Brooklyn Law School will offer new clinics on topics including technology start-ups, disaster recovery, veterans' rights and government law.

Though the rise of "experiential learning" opportunities such as clinics, practicums and externships has continued for the past decade, schools said their latest clinical offerings cover areas of law that will attract students to their schools and potential employers to their students.

"Especially in today's economy, students are rightfully concerned with the job market and how to best prepare," said Randy Hertz, NYU Law's vice dean and director of clinical and advocacy programs. "They place a premium on going to schools that offer the kind of clinics that will help them find jobs."

At Cardozo Law, one of three new clinics takes advantage of New York City's growing tech sector by helping technology start-ups devise business plans that are legally sound. The other two will cover youth justice and civil rights.

"These are all topically important legal issues that are all very different experiences from what's been offered before," said Cardozo Law dean Matthew Diller. "These are areas of opportunity that we've identified" where there is a growing need for lawyers.

Diller, who said expanding the school's clinical program is "a large focus of my deanship," was the driving force behind the technology start-ups clinic. Beginning next spring, students will work with start-ups based in the city on the kinds of intellectual property, corporate, contract and labor and employment issues that are specific to early-stage companies with legal needs different from those of large firms.

"If Mark Zuckerberg had legal counsel when he started Facebook, he could have avoided years of litigation," Diller said.

About 200 of 1,034 total Cardozo Law students participate in clinics each year, plus 70 in field clinics. The latest offerings bring Cardozo's total to 15 in-house clinics and 13 field clinics. Since Diller became dean in 2009, the school also has added clinics to improve New York's guardianship system and to provide free legal services to independent filmmakers.

Cardozo's youth justice clinic, which will start this fall, is a partnership with the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx and will run the full school year. Students will represent juvenile clients charged with misdemeanors or felonies while also researching problems and potential reforms for New York' juvenile justice system for non-profits such as the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In a civil rights clinic to start next spring, Cardozo students litigating in federal court will represent defendants facing various potential privacy violations or perceived threats to their civil rights.

Second- and third-year law students in clinical courses are supervised by full-time faculty or practicing attorneys as they work with clients, draft documents and litigate cases. Between eight and 15 students take a course together.

In New York, an added bonus of the additional clinics is increased opportunities for students to earn their newly required 50 pro bono hours prior to bar admission, some deans said.

NYU Law Offerings

NYU Law, which has steadily increased its clinical program over the last 10 years, is adding six clinics next year, bringing its total to 40. Around 400 NYU Law students take clinics each year, with two-thirds of about 1,500 J.D. candidates taking at least one clinic while in law school. Some clinics are open to LL.M. students as well.

A new Washington, D.C.-based legislative and regulatory clinic this fall will be taught by Robert Bauer, a partner at Perkins Coie and a former White House counsel to President Barack Obama, and Sally Katzen, who held various positions in the Clinton administration and was part of a working group that aided Obama's transition into the White House.

NYU's other five new clinics will cover women's rights and equality issues; legal ethics; appellate bankruptcy for indigent debtors; policy advocacy in Latin America; and European regulatory policy. The latter two will take place next spring as part of the school's new study abroad programs for third-year students in Buenos Aires and Paris.

The NYU clinics are part of a larger effort to enhance the third-year curriculum, Hertz said.

"The central goal is to maintain a set of clinics that teaches the lessons students need to learn, and to do so in the practice settings that are best suited to teach those lessons," Hertz said. Clinics stress professional values in addition to lawyering skills, he added.

Elder Rights Clinic

Brooklyn Law, for its part, will offer an elder rights clinic where students will work on housing and benefits matters as well as elder abuse cases. That brings Brooklyn's total clinics to 32. Of the school's 471 graduates in 2012, 90 percent of full-time and 67 percent of part-time students took at least one semester of a clinic.

At Cornell Law, students in a new clinic this fall will represent special-needs children from low-income families who seek disability services from the school system.

Hofstra Law and Touro Law are each adding disaster law clinics this fall, building on experiential learning opportunities throughout this school year where they helped victims of Hurricane Sandy. Both schools received grants from the Robin Hood Foundation and Long Island Community Foundation, as well as individual donors, to start the clinics.

Touro Law is also bringing back a veterans and service members rights clinic, boosting the school's total to eight. About 60 of some 690 Touro students per semester take clinics. At Hofstra Law, between 130 and 160 of approximately 1,000 students take at least one of eight total clinics per year.

In another recent example of schools increasing their clinics, New York Law School announced last month it will double the size of its clinical program by adding 13 new clinics this fall, many integrated within New York City government offices (NYLJ, April 14).