Prosecution Externship - Eastern District of New York

Conducted with the cooperation of the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York

LW.10103 / LW.10355
Professor Alixandra Smith
Professor Erin Reid
Open to 3L and 2L students; LL.M.s if space is available*
Maximum of 8-10 students

Fall semester
5 credits**
Prerequisites/Co-requisites. Criminal Procedure and Evidence are recommended***
Also see Note: re security clearance.

Course Description

The United States Attorney's Office will select up to ten students for externships in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is located in Brooklyn just over the Brooklyn Bridge and four stops on the subway from NYU. The Office is a national leader in the prosecution of federal crimes, including terrorism, cybercrime, public corruption, organized crime, civil rights, business and securities fraud, international narcotics trafficking, violent crime, and human trafficking. Interns will have the opportunity to work closely with Assistant United States Attorneys at every stage of a case, from investigation to prosecution to appeals, gaining a greater understanding of the scope of prosecutorial discretion and the ways in which such discretion is exercised. In addition to conducting legal research and writing, students will be permitted, under the direction of an Assistant United States Attorney, to personally argue legal matters in court. For example, interns have the opportunity to participate in bail detention arguments in arraignment court. This “on your feet” in court experience is an invaluable experience for students in the externship.

NYU will select up to ten students to participate in a seminar on criminal prosecution in the Eastern District of New York. The seminar is separate from, but complementary to, the externship. The seminar will meet on Mondays from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Students receive a grade for the seminar and the externship is evaluated on a pass/fail basis.

Work of the Criminal Division

Criminal Division Assistant United States Attorneys handle criminal cases from the initial investigative stage through appeal, working with federal agents, investigators, and local police to plan strategy, presenting cases to the grand jury, negotiating with defense counsel, handling all court appearances and motion practice, trying cases before the bench and jury, and briefing and arguing appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Assistant United States Attorneys in the Eastern District of New York have prosecuted some of the most significant criminal cases in the nation in the areas of terrorism, cybercrime, public corruption, organized crime, civil rights, business and securities fraud, international narcotics trafficking, violent crime, and human trafficking. Examples include successful prosecutions of: Robert S. Kelly, “R. Kelly,” the musician, and Keith Raniere, the founder and leader of Nxivm, for their sexual exploitation of victims, inlcuding minors; high-ranking officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the organization responsible for the regulation and promotion of soccer worldwide; Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the leader of the Sinoloa Cartel in Mexico; al Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist operatives arrested in the United States and overseas; the prosecution of Martin Shkreli, also known as “Pharma Bro” for securities fraud; members of a global cybercrime organization that stole $45 million in back-to-back cyberheists targeting several major financial institutions; various members and associates of the five families of New York City; the NYPD officers responsible for the sexual assault on Abner Louima; former Congressman Michael Grimm and former New York State Senator Pedro Espada; individuals who have committed violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including bankers from Goldman Sachs for their involvement in the 1MDB bribery and money laundering scheme, business executives for their roles in the Odebrecht bribery and money laundering scheme; members of MS-13, a violent international street gang; and numerous members of Mexican sex trafficking operations.


By participating in this externship, students will have an opportunity to learn about the inner workings of the federal criminal justice system. Each student will work under the supervision of two Criminal Division Assistant United States Attorneys on the investigation, preparation, and prosecution of criminal cases for approximately 10 to 15 hours per week. The students' work may include, for example, attending interviews of witnesses, including proffers of cooperating witnesses; assisting with investigative strategy and drafting motions, plea agreements, appellate briefs and other pleadings. Students will also assist Assistant United States Attorneys who are preparing for trial by, for example, attending debriefings of witnesses and drafting jury instructions. Every student will have the opportunity to appear in court on behalf of the United States at a trial, hearing and/or other court appearance. The externship is separate from, although complementary to, the EDNY seminar.

The Seminar

Participants will meet weekly for a two-hour evening seminar to discuss, study, and explore the many important roles of the prosecutor in the federal criminal justice system. Classes will focus on ethical and strategic considerations in exercising prosecutorial authority and other challenges facing federal prosecutors. In particular, classes will examine how federal prosecutors may influence criminal cases at all stages of development, investigation, and arrest through various investigative techniques, charging decisions, plea bargaining, and sentencing. Students will also participate in in-class simulations based on a mock case file to help them improve their advocacy skills and hear from guest speakers from other components of the criminal justice system, including from the defense bar and bench.


The externship fieldwork is assessed on a credit/fail basis. The seminar receives a letter grade.

Note to Students Regarding Security Clearance

Students selected for the program will be required to pass a security background check overseen by the Department of Justice’s Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (“OARM”).  A favorable determination from OARM is required before an extern may begin working in any U.S. Attorney's Office.  A student must be a United States citizen to be eligible to work in the U.S. Attorney’s Office as an extern. In making its determination regarding suitability, OARM considers a number of factors, including a candidate’s tax filing and payment history, credit history, candor, and history of any usage of controlled substances. It is critical that students accepted for the externship complete the required security paperwork as soon as possible after acceptance into the externship so that the security background check can be timely obtained. A student may not commence externship work unless he or she has cleared the background check. In addition, because the U.S. Attorney's Office is involved in litigation against many private law offices, legal services offices and other state or municipal law firms, students may not work part-time in such an office and participate in the externship. Nor may you work for any federal judges while participating in this clinic. Furthermore, you may not receive any income or advance compensation from a law firm during the externship.

Students who have been preliminarily selected for an externship position must thereafter supply information for a background check and be granted a favorable security clearance in order to work in this Office.  In the context of the security clearance process, you will be asked to provide information, where applicable, concerning, among other things, your employment history, foreign travel, contacts with foreign nationals, dual citizenship, financial record, police record, and treatment for an emotional or mental health condition that could impair your judgment or reliability. The most common suitability issues that arise during the security clearance process are: past unlawful use of drugs, including marijuana; failure to comply with financial obligations; failure to register for the selective service; and misrepresentations or omissions on the security form. Students must be U.S. citizens and must have spent 3 of the last 5 years in the U.S.

For more information, consult the website for the EDNY. If you hold dual citizenship, have lived abroad for more than two of the past five years, or have  any other questions about the security clearance process, contact the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) to consult their Government Handbook and/or Prosecution Handbook, or make an appointment with Gail Zweig.

Application Procedure

Students should fill out and submit the standard application, resume and unofficial transcript using CAMS, the online application system. These materials will then be forwarded to the United States Attorney’s Office (i.e., you should not apply separately to the United States Attorney’s Office). LL.M.s who are U.S. citizens and meet residency requirements will also be considered. The deadline is different than for JDs, and is posted on the Clinic Application Timelines page. Please note there is a separate application form for LL.M.s. There will be no interview.

Student Contacts

Students who are interested in learning more about the course may wish to speak with the following students who were in the clinic during the 2022-23 school year:

Bargemann, Cory
Bays, Elizabeth
Friend, Will
Grover, Emma
Korman, Justin
Leben, Wendy
Lefkowitz, Rachel
Luo, Ian
Saber, Israa

* Consult the Clinics Open to LL.M. Students page to see if the clinic is available to LL.M.s in the current year.

** 5 credits include 3 clinical credits and 2 academic seminar credits.

***These courses may be taken concurrently with the clinic.