Pro Bono Scholars Program Law and Power Externship

LW.12651 / LW.12763
Professor Andrew Friedman
Open to 3L students only
Maximum of 18 students
Spring semester
14 credits*
No prerequisites.


For decades, lawyers invested in progressive-left social change have grappled with how to effectively deploy their skills and capacities – and, more broadly, law itself – in service of organizing for social, economic, and racial justice. The desire to wed law to transformative organizing efforts and collective mobilizations has generated innovative modalities of practice and frames of analysis. It has also produced a number of pressing questions: to what extent – and how – can law help to build durable power for poor and oppressed people? What kinds of strategies, approaches to law and organizing, and organizational forms best facilitate this project? How can lawyers orient themselves to counter hegemonic  movements given the conservatizing nature of the legal profession? How might longstanding modalities of law and organizing need to be adapted to meet the challenges of our current political moment?

These and other questions are the animating themes of the PBSP Law and Power Externship. The Externship is intended to spark discussion and reflection, as well as forward and strategic thinking, among students with a shared commitment, or interest, in  building a more just and democratic social order.  

Course Description


The PBSP Law and Power Externship seminar carries four credits, beginning with a one-week, full-time intensive grounding, and then meeting for two hours weekly during the remaining portion of the twelve-week program.

The seminar will focus on an exploration of what it means to be a lawyer working for racial and economic justice. We will explore different conceptions of social justice lawyering and the tensions among them. We will engage a range of materials, workshops, discussions and simulations designed to help students engage with philosophical and practical questions about lawyering, the lawyer’s role in social movements, community organizing and social change work itself. We will dig into questions about social change dynamics as well: the dynamics of movement moments and uprising, the role of structured organizations, and what is involved in building people’s organizations with the capacity to secure meaningful social change. Students will get an introduction to different roles attorneys play in social change work and will meet a number of attorneys and activists with different experiences of social change lawyering. Students will also delve into practical questions and skill development activities to help ground their lives as lawyers working for change. The curriculum does presume some commitment to or interest in the role that attorneys can play in supporting social change movements or collective social justice work, but we hope that the content will be useful and interesting to students regardless of their employment plans.

Case or work rounds will be part of the seminar. Students will have opportunities to reflect on their own experiences, and to think critically about the legal profession and various legal institutions.


The fieldwork component is the central focus of the PBSP Law and Power Externship, representing 10 credits. Students should include information in their applications about their interest in particular experiences and career directions so that these may be taken into account when assigning fieldwork placements. (For more information about the fieldwork assignment process, please see “Additional Information” section below.) Students will work with one or more attorneys in the particular non-profit, in consultation with Professor Andrew Friedman.

Students are strongly encouraged to partner with fieldwork host organizations that work at the intersection of law, power and organizing, such as Make the Road NY and NJ, TakeRoot Justice, the National Day Labor Organizing Network, The Action Lab, and others.

Previous fieldwork partners have included: Bronx Defenders’ Civil Action Practice, Bronx Defenders Criminal Defense Practice, Bronx Defenders Family Defense Practice, Brooklyn Defender Services—Immigration Practice, Disability Rights New York, Lawyers For Children, Mobilization for Justice—Housing Project, New York Legal Assistance Group S.D.N.Y. Pro Se Legal Clinic, New York Legal Assistance Group LegalHealth, Queens Legal Services—Homeowner & Consumer Rights Project, The Door, Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS). 

Developing Partnerships

The PBSP Law and Power Externship is also open, on an ad hoc basis, to developing other fieldwork partnerships for students with a particular field or community of interest that is not represented by our current possible partnerships. PBSP Law and Power Externship students interested in an exploratory fieldwork partnership should contact Professor Andrew Friedman early in the application process and will need to be an active partner in developing any ad hoc arrangement.

The options for a developing partner placement are numerous, although the program can only support a few such placements in a given year because the development and supervision planning demands more from the Program. Many organizations in New York City delivering legal services to low-income or disenfranchised clients are already accustomed to accepting Pro Bono Scholars and have a process for doing so; a candidate should inquire early to ensure compliance with that organization’s process, which may be competitive.

Qualifications for Applicants

The clinic is open to 3Ls who will complete all other coursework required for graduation prior to the Spring semester; be in good academic standing and in compliance with law school, New York State and ABA requirements for graduation. Prior to applying, students should review the Overall Caps and Non-Classroom Credit Caps in the JD Program Requirements.

Students must take the New York Bar Exam in February, 2024. (In extraordinary circumstances, a student may not be required to take the New York Bar Exam but this requires the permission of Professor Friedman.) States other than New York rarely, if ever, allow pre-bar graduation exam taking or early admission; students hoping to take other state bar exams pre-graduation (in addition to the New York Bar Exam) and/or to seek early bar admission are responsible for determining whether the state in question makes allowance for such choice.

Application Procedure

Students should submit an application, resume and transcript on-line via CAMS. Applicants will be contacted during the clinic application period for an interview.

NYU students can also participate in the Pro Bono Scholars Program through the Education Advocacy Clinic (EAC) with Professors Randi Levine and Matthew Lenaghan, working on special education cases. Students interested in participating in the Pro Bono Scholars Program through the Education Advocacy Clinic should apply directly to that clinic.

For questions regarding the application process, please contact Susan Hodges. If you have questions about the PBSP Law and Power Externship, you may contact Andrew Friedman. If you have questions about the Education Advocacy Clinic, please contact Randi Levine.

Additional Information

Students interested in the PBSP Law and Power Externship must complete all required courses, including Professional Responsibility, by the end of the first semester of the third year. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the Option A writing requirement by the end of the fall semester of the third year. The PBSP Law and Power Externship can count for either the experiential learning requirement or the Option B writing requirement.

Students in the PBSP Law and Power Externship should consult with the Office of Academic Services to ensure that the credit hour and other academic requirements for graduation and bar admission are satisfied, after completion of the Externship. At least 64 of the 83 credits required for graduation must be in regularly scheduled classes. The four-credit seminar in the PBSP Law and Power Externship is a regularly scheduled class. Students who have taken other externships and some clinics, or received academic credit for supervised research, law review, moot court or other nonresidential academic activities, should ensure they have the necessary credits to graduate if they participate in the PBSP Law and Power Externship. Prior to applying, students should review the Overall Caps and Non-Classroom Credit Caps in the JD Program Requirements.

Students will receive a letter grade for the seminar. The fieldwork component is assessed on a credit/fail basis.

The fieldwork assignment process will occur after students are accepted into and have accepted the offer of the PBSP Law and Power Externship.  Professor Friedman will then email the accepted students the possible fieldwork placements. In the few weeks after May 10th, the plan is that students will have screening interviews by those possible placements, preferably during the weeks of May 20th or May 27th. If for some reason a student accepted into the PBSP Law and Power Externship is not matched with a fieldwork placement that is one of the student’s top three choices, Prof. Friedman and members of PILC (Public Interest Law Center) will work together with the student to find an acceptable placement.

Additional general information about the Pro Bono Scholars Program is available on the New York State Unified Court System website

Student Contacts

Samantha Chen
Katherine Wallace
Kristen Marie Brown
Geneva Gist
Ibrahim Ramoul Menendez
Angelo Pis-Dudot
Jarrett Gold
Sierra Townsend
Ry Walker
Thao Phuong Ho

* 14 credits include 10 fieldwork credits and 4 academic seminar credits.