Prosecution Externship - Southern District of New York

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

LW.11207 / LW.10835
Professor Margaret Graham
Professor Negar Tekeei
Open to 3L and 2L students
Maximum of 10 students
Spring 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 eight to ten students for externships in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan ("SDNY"), recognized nationally as one of the finest prosecution offices in the country.

NYU will select up to ten students to participate in a seminar on criminal prosecution. The seminar is separate from, but complementary to, the externship in the SDNY. The seminar will meet on Wednesdays from 5:00-6:50 PM at the SDNY.

Work of the Criminal Division

Criminal Division Assistant United States Attorneys (“AUSAs”) handle criminal cases from the initial investigative stage through appeal, 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. AUSAs work closely with federal agents, local police, and investigators throughout the process of a criminal investigation and prosecution. The cases are often very complex and significant. Because Manhattan is the financial capital of the world, as well as a major hub for organized crime, narcotics trafficking, and national security threats, the SDNY handles an unusually large number of cases involving sophisticated schemes in the white collar, public corruption, violent crime, international narcotics trafficking, and domestic and international terrorism areas.


By participating in this externship, students will have an opportunity to learn all about the inner workings of the federal criminal justice system. Each student will report to, assist, and work under the supervision of at least two Criminal Division AUSAs. Students are required to work ten to fifteen hours each week in the United States Attorney’s Office.  Students will work closely with each of their supervisors in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases in federal court. The students' work may include, for example, assisting interviews of federal agents, attending proffers of defendants hoping to cooperate with the government, and drafting research memoranda, motions, briefs, plea agreements and other pleadings. Students will also assist AUSAs who are preparing for trial by, for example, assisting in the debriefing of witnesses and drafting jury instructions. Students will attend court proceedings, including pre-trial conferences, guilty pleas, sentencing proceedings, trials, and appellate arguments. The externship is separate from, although complementary to, the SDNY seminar.

The Seminar

Participants 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 discretion. Classes will examine a federal prosecutor’s role from the initiation of a criminal investigation, through the filing of any charges, arrest, guilty plea or trial, conviction, sentencing, and appeal. Topics will include: criminal investigative techniques available to prosecutors, with an emphasis on the varying degrees of judicial oversight of those techniques; the working relationship between prosecutors and investigators; charging decisions; a prosecutor’s disclosure obligations; a defendant’s decision to cooperate, plead guilty, or stand trial; and sentencing advocacy. Students will also participate in mock arguments in the courtroom before members of the judiciary, so that students can improve and enhance their advocacy skills.


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

Note to Students Regarding Security Clearance and Conflicts of Interest

Students selected for the program will be required to pass a security background check overseen by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for United States Attorneys (“EOUSA”).  A favorable determination from EOUSA is required before an extern may begin working in any United States Attorney's Office. A student must be a United States citizen to be eligible to work in the United States Attorney’s Office as an extern. For a complete list of eligibility requirements, visit the SDNY website (, select “Employment” and then “Law Student Intern Program”, and scroll down to “Eligibility Requirements and Conditions for All Internship and Externship Programs.” In making its determination regarding suitability, EOUSA 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, including marijuana. 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.

Student externs cannot work for or be paid by another law firm or similar entity during the period of the externship at the United States Attorney’s Office. Externs are also prohibited from participating in any law school or other legal clinic involving litigation with or proceedings before the United States or any federal entity during the period of the internship or externship. Nor may student externs work for any federal judges while participating in this externship. Written consent from the U.S. Attorney’s Office is required to participate in any other type of law school or legal clinic, or in any other type of outside employment, during the period of 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 websites for the EDNY and SDNY. 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 Process

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). 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:

Fall 2022
Agara, Isaiah
Barber, Elise
Barenholtz, Dave
Chang, Leila
Noh, Andrew
Ring, Tucker
Rosenblum, Gabe
Ruttimann, Alejandra

Spring 2023
Barrow, Buzzy
Bedell, Jared
Carozza, Giancarlo
Dresdale, Michael B
Gursoy, Berke
Johnson, Wesley
Labowe-Stoll, Batsheva
O'Brien, Grace
Rey, Natali
Sterman, Raquel (Kelly)

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

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