Every first-year law student is required to take Civil Procedure, a course that the Procedure faculty—regarded as the strongest in the nation—call “the lawyer’s toolbox.” The course gives students a grounding in the essentials, such as subject matter jurisdiction (the basis for the court to hear the case), personal jurisdiction (whether a court can require a person to appear before it), and the Erie Doctrine (whether a federal court sitting in its diversity jurisdiction must apply state or federal law).
From Troy McKenzie '00 to Helen Hershkoff, from Samuel Issacharoff to Burt Neuborne, and from Arthur Miller to Linda Silberman and Oscar Chase, Civ Pro professors prepare their students to apply this discipline in a rapidly changing world. Depending on their particular interests, professors spend time with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, examining, for instance, summary judgment and dismissal or joinder (which allows a party to combine multiple claims in one lawsuit) and class actions, as well as principles of finality involving the binding effect of judgments.
More than simply being teachers, the professors also have participated in some of the most recent significant cases or projects in civil procedure. Neuborne won a historic settlement in the cases of Holocaust survivors suing Swiss banks; Silberman was part of a US State Department delegation involved in the negotiation of an international treaty on jurisdiction and judgments for transnational custody disputes.
Evidence, taught by Professors Stephen Gillers '68, Paul Chevigny, and Holly Maguigan, among others, adds to students’ understanding of procedure. It covers both civil and criminal cases in American courtrooms, asking what information can be introduced, how, and for what purpose, and what policies inform the rules. Topics include relevance and materiality, privilege, circumstantial proof, the rule against hearsay and its exceptions, expert testimony, cross-examination, and burden of proof.
A number of other upper-level courses build on the foundation laid in the first-year Civil Procedure class. Professors Barry Friedman and Helen Hershkoff teach Federal Courts and the Federal System, a course that examines the power and role of the federal courts as defined by the United States Constitution, statutes, and judicial decisions. Judge Harry T. Edwards, a visiting professor of law, teaches The Art of Appellate Decisionmaking, an in-depth study of decisionmaking in federal courts of appeals. Judge Reena Raggi and John Siffert, adjunct professors of law, teach Trial and Appellate Advocacy, a course that takes upper-level students through the critical stages of a case from the inception through the appeal. Special emphasis is placed on ethical considerations, trial and appellate strategy, and preserving issues for appeal.
Professors Rochelle Dreyfuss, Samuel Estreicher, Samuel Issacharoff, Arthur Miller, and Linda Silberman teach seminars and courses that deepen students’ understanding of the subject and push the boundaries of civil procedure. Dreyfuss, an authority on jurisdictional issues regarding intellectual property, leads International Intellectual Property; Estreicher, who teaches the Appellate Advocacy Workshop: The Supreme Court’s Current Docket, is one of the nation’s leading experts on alternative dispute resolution and an outspoken supporter of arbitration in employment disputes. Silberman's International Litigation and Arbitration explores current developments in public and private international law, civil procedure, international arbitration, and comparative law and procedure in a litigation context; Issacharoff and Miller teach the immensely popular Complex Litigation, which focuses on the courts and multi-party, multi-jurisdictional disputes.
Students get a pragmatic understanding of practice—and a chance to try their hand at it—in the required year-long Lawyering course, which takes an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to legal analysis. It involves a series of exercises in which students analyze legal questions, develop facts, interview and counsel clients, and engage in written and oral advocacy. The program has two purposes: to give students insight into how legal principles play out in practice and to expose them to the elements of professional excellence.
Students also get firsthand experience through NYU Law’s clinics, ranging from Professor Bryan Stevenson and Randy Susskind’s Equal Justice and Defender Clinic to the Family Defense Clinic, taught by Professor Martin Guggenheim '71 and Christine Gottlieb '97.
Finally, third-year students also are able to connect their interest in procedure to public interest work. The Hays Civil Liberties Program, the oldest and most respected program of its kind in the United States, awards fellowships to a small group of third-year students committed to civil liberties and offers them unique opportunities. Fellows work in special internships, usually two during the academic year, for civil liberties and other human rights organizations on litigation, policy recommendations, and other law-related assignments. Fellows may also work on research or special projects with one of the program's faculty directors, Professors Norman Dorsen, Sylvia Law '68, and Helen Hershkoff.
For more about criminal procedure, go to our Criminal Law Area of Focus