The Legal Ethics Bureau at NYU School of Law

LW.12228 / LW.12229
Professor Barbara S. Gillers
Open to 3L, 2L and LL.M. students
Maximum of 10 students

Spring semester
5 credits*
No prerequisites or co-requisites.


The Legal Ethics Bureau at NYU School of Law will advise lawyers in public interest matters on ethical issues, submit amicus briefs in a variety of public interest contexts, and draft ethics opinions. Emphasis will be on practical skills training, as described below.


Students will work with the clinic director and with public interest lawyers in non-profit organizations and in law firms, and with members of professional and judicial ethics committees. Assignments will involve counseling lawyers, drafting ethics rules and opinions, drafting amicus briefs to high courts, and researching complex legal ethics issues. Emphasis throughout will be on practical skills training, including written and oral presentations. 

Fieldwork projects will include: (a) ethics counseling to NYU’s own clinics and projects, to national and state public interest organizations, and to private lawyers handling public interest cases in which lawyer regulatory issues arise; (b) preparing research memos that will provide assistance to lawyers who are litigating claims of (e.g.) ineffective assistance of counsel in capital cases, prosecutorial or defense lawyer conflicts, and like issues; and (c) assisting bar committees on ethics opinions, on proposed changes to the rules governing lawyers and judges, and on rule of law issues related to the professional responsibility of lawyers and judges worldwide. Committees that students assist may include the Federal Bar Council Public Service Committee, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, the City Bar Professional and Judicial Ethics Committee, and the NYS Committee on Standards of Attorney Conduct. Students may meet with these committees and make presentations to them in connection with the fieldwork.

From time to time, the clinic will prepare amicus briefs in the Supreme Court and elsewhere in conjunction with pro bono lawyers on significant questions of professional responsibility. For sample briefs, see, e.g. Maples v. Thomas, 565 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 912 (2012) (attorneys abandoned a client who was on death-row when they failed to file a timely appeal) and Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 2549 (2010) (extending the time for a capital defendant to file a habeas petition because of his lawyer’s misconduct). 

In the first year, clinic students drafted an opinion on prosecutorial ethics for the American Bar Association’s Committee on Professional and Judicial Ethics. They also prepared an amicus brief to the New York Court of Appeals, which argued the impropriety of prosecutorial questioning of unrepresented indigent persons while they are in custody and immediately before arraignment and appointment of counsel.


Students will participate in a 2-hour seminar once each week. Using selected readings on professional responsibility and on leadership, current events, and peer critiques students will discuss issues in professional responsibility that confront public interest lawyers and law firms and issues that arise in our fieldwork. Enrollment in the Legal Ethics Bureau for a semester will satisfy the professional responsibility requirement.

Application Procedure

Students should submit an application, resume, writing sample, and transcript online through CAMS. To arrange an interview, please use the CAMS system as well. If you have questions regarding the application procedure or the work of the clinic, please contact adjunct professor Barbara S. Gillers at or 917.679.5757.

Student Contacts

Students interested in the clinic are encouraged to speak to members of the 2013-14 Legal Ethics Bureau, listed below: 

James  Aliaga
Zachary Kravat
David Leapheart
Alex Levy
Xiao Luo
Sam McMullan

You are also invited to contact the instructor with any questions you may have.

* 5 credits include 3 clinical (fieldwork) credits and 2 academic seminar credits per semester. Enrollment satisfies the professional responsibility requirement.