The field of "civil rights" is very broad. It includes discrimination against racial minorities, women, GLBT members, the disabled, immigrants and others, each of which is a large subject on its own. And it also includes, especially if one merges civil rights with civil liberties, the rights of workers and unions, including employment discrimination, criminal justice issues, aspects of family law, and perhaps other fields. Other law school area groups have written memoranda to guide interested students.
Turning to civil rights, there are some preliminary observations to keep in mind. First, Constitutional Law is obviously a building block for this area, and as a required course everyone will take it. Many students may want to take con law in the first year, although there are two reservations here: the first year course is four credit hours and some of the other sections are five, and if a student wants to study with a particular con law professor he or she may not be teaching the first year section.
A second observation is that however important offerings in the civil rights field are (we discuss these below), students should not confine themselves to such courses because other courses provide context, insights and skills that are valuable to all lawyers, including civil rights lawyers.
Some of these courses are Administrative Law, Conflicts of Laws, Evidence or Civil Litigation, Corporate Law, Federal Courts, Negotiation or Mediation, State Constitutional Law or State Court Practice, Statutory Interpretation or Legislation, Taxation and Trial Advocacy. Students who are more (or less) interested in litigation will of course take that into account in appraising these courses.
A related point is that students should consider also courses or seminars that are further afield from civil rights. We will not attempt to list these here, but there are many areas which will broaden individuals even if they have no apparent or immediate payoff in the civil rights field. In such cases a student should consider the intructor as well as the course. Such courses might include Law and Literature, Business Crimes and International Law (in one of its many manifestations). Other examples, perhaps a step closer to civil rights, are Counterterrorism, Comparative Constitutional Law, and one of the offerings on free speech.
When one looks for courses that are more centrally concerned with civil rights, in the fall can be mentioned Education Law, Employment Law, Family Law or Child, Parent and State, Immigration Law and Separation of Powers. . . . In the spring are Affirmative Action Today, Colloquium on Education Law and Policy, Constitutional Litigation, Immigration Law (again), Groups, Individuals and the Law, Women at Work, Employment Law (again), and Topics in Labor and Employment.
Not all of the courses and seminars mentioned above are offered every year.
We have reserved the clinics for last, both because they are taken for more credits than ordinary courses and seminars, and because NYU has an enormous range of clinics taught by professors who are experienced in the field as well as familiar with the theory and doctrine of the subject. There are approximately 15 clinics in each of the fall and spring, although some are year-long. Many are in the civil rights field, and therefore most students interested in civil rights, broadly construed, apply to a clinic. Conversation with students currently in a clinic is advised, as is reading the valuable report of the Clinical Area Group on its offerings.
We hope this memorandum is helpful. Members of the Civil Rights Area Group are available to counsel students with particular questions.