NDS Police Accountability Externship

LW.12813 / LW.12814
Professor Alice Fontier
Professor Emily Ponder Williams
Open to 3L and 2L students; LLMs if space permits*
Maximum of 10 students
Spring semester
5 credits**
No prerequisites or co-requisites.

Course Description

In the Police Accountability Externship, NYU law students will participate in Neighborhood Defender Service’s efforts to hold police accountable in Northern Manhattan for the systemic, widespread police violence plaguing its neighborhoods through individual client representation and holistic advocacy. While the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests have shed new light on the systemic racism entrenched in police departments, NDS’s clients have long been all too familiar with this reality. False arrests, illegal stops and searches, and brutal assaults are, unfortunately, everyday occurrences for the clients of NDS. NDS’s Police Misconduct Project was established to demand accountability and reparations for this routine violence, and disrupt the systems that perpetuate it, by working in partnership with individual clients seeking redress. In a moment where the United States is reckoning with white supremacy and widespread police violence, this NDS externship will promote police accountability in the Northern Manhattan community.

Through this semester-long externship, students will work with NDS attorneys and their clients to pursue individual claims of police misconduct. In addition to direct representation, students will gain hands-on experience in community-centered lawyering by joining NDS in engaging with community boards, coalitions, and other community organizations in conversations around police violence and police accountability. Through fieldwork and the complementary seminar, this externship seeks to introduce students to the scope and impact of police misconduct, while equipping them with practical legal and advocacy skills to enter the field of civil rights and racial justice.


In the fieldwork portion of the externship students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours per week engaging in all aspects of individual client representation in police misconduct litigation and holistic advocacy. Students will work with NDS attorneys to conduct client intake, conduct investigations, identify claims and develop case strategy, file Notices of Claim against New York City, prepare and defend clients in depositions, engage in settlement negotiations, and participate in state and federal police misconduct litigation, where appropriate. At all times, students will pursue claims in close collaboration with the Criminal Defense Practice, ensuring clients’ goals remain at the center of both their criminal case and their civil actions. Due to the length of the cases, students will likely work on a variety of matters at different stages of development, providing students the opportunity to engage in diverse aspects of police misconduct litigation and holistic advocacy.


The classroom component of the externship will equip students with the context and tools required to engage deeply in each area of fieldwork and develop practical and culturally competent lawyering skills. The seminar will meet for two hours each week, during which time students will gain familiarity with critical legal issues as well as practical lawyering skills necessary for their fieldwork, such as witness preparation, negotiation techniques, ethics, and trauma-informed lawyering. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on the demands and constraints of their role as lawyers as it relates to their clients, opposing counsel, and the systems they are working within.


The externship fieldwork is assessed on a credit/fail basis. The seminar receives a letter grade based on class participation, completion of in-class exercises, and submission of writing assignments and self-evaluation.

Application Procedure

Students interested in applying for the clinic should submit the standard application, resume, and transcript online through CAMS. To arrange an interview, please use the CAMS system as well. If you have questions regarding the application procedure, please contact Emily Ponder Williams.

* Consult the LLM Clinic Requirements at A Glance page to see if the clinic is available to LLMs in the current year.

** 5 credits include 3 clinical (fieldwork) credits and 2 academic seminar credits.