Public interest law at NYU is broadly defined. The Law School offers an extensive variety of courses that are beneficial to a public interest practice. For example, a student wishing to be of counsel to a nonprofit agency might take Corporations, a student interested in civil rights law would consider Federal Courts, and a student interested in allocation of public benefits might enroll in Government Benefits. The ethos of public interest infuses everything, and NYU Law's aim is to prepare students for whatever career they choose, whether that be in legal services or government.
The core training for public interest lawyers happens in NYU's renowned clinical program. All first-year students participate in Lawyering, the first stage of the clinical program. Lawyering students perform some of the fundamental activities of practicing law—researching cases and statutes, writing briefs, interviewing witnesses, counseling clients, negotiating settlements, managing evolving and complex cases, and arguing to a court. Lawyering’s skill-based approach, modeled after medical school training for physicians, prepares students for summer jobs, particularly high-responsibility positions in public interest organizations. In upper-level clinics, students do real-world public interest work with faculty supervision and support. From immigrants facing deportation and juveniles accused of serious crimes to defendants facing the death penalty, students tackle a range of complex legal issues.
While public interest is not strictly an academic discipline, the Law School has many faculty who focus primarily on public interest issues. Professors Claudia Angelos, Amy Adler, Anthony Amsterdam, Sarah Burns, Paulette Caldwell, Paul Chevigny, Deborah Malamud, Norman Dorsen, Helen Hershkoff and Burt Neuborne are interested in civil rights and civil liberties. Professors Martin Guggenheim '71 and Peggy Cooper Davis specialize in issues surrounding children's rights. Professors Rachel Barkow, Randy Hertz, James Jacobs, Stephen Schulhofer, Bryan Stevenson, Kim Taylor-Thompson and Anthony Thompson devote their efforts to the study and pursuit of criminal justice. Professors Cynthia Estlund, Samuel Estreicher, Deborah Malamud and Laura Sager work on employment and labor issues.
Environmental and land use fascinate Professors Vicki Been '83, Roderick Hills Jr., Richard Stewart, Katrina Wyman and Dean Richard Revesz. Immigration issues are integral to the work of Professors Nancy Morawetz '81, Adam Cox, and Alina Das '05; Professors Philip Alston, David Golove, Benedict Kingsbury, Holly Maguigan, Smita Narula, Margaret Satterthwaite '99 and Frank Upham focus on international human rights. Professors Lily Batchelder (on leave), Paula Galowitz and Sylvia Law '68 focus on poverty and economic issues. For example, Galowitz leads the Civil Legal Services Clinic, and Sylvia Law, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law, Medicine and Psychiatry, studies health, welfare and women’s rights.