Clinics

New York State Attorney General’s Office - Economic Justice Law Enforcement Externship

LW.12652 / LW.12653
Professor Bryan Bloom
Professor Amy McFarlane
Open to 2L, 3L and LLM students
Maximum of 10 students
Fall semester
5 credits*
No prerequisites or co-requisites.

Course Description

State attorneys general have increasingly taken on the mantle of promoting economic justice through cutting-edge impact litigation and other creative legal strategies. New York has been at the forefront of this effort, and the Attorney General’s Economic Justice Division has used its broad enforcement powers on behalf of the People of the State of New York in a wide variety of areas, including challenging monopolization schemes and cartels used to raise prescription drug prices, holding internet service providers accountable for failing to deliver on their promises, protecting vulnerable consumers from unscrupulous investment advisors, empowering and rewarding “whistleblowers” that uncover fraud against New York State or local governments, and ending fraudulent business practices, among others. This course affords students the opportunity to learn and experience economic justice lawyering from the perspective of state government. The externship is comprised of a seminar and fieldwork in an Economic Justice Division bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

The goal of the course is to teach students about the work of the New York State Attorney General promoting equal justice under law, while giving them hands-on experience in public interest investigation and litigation. The Economic Justice Division houses five bureaus: Antitrust, Consumer Frauds & Protection, Internet & Technology, Taxpayer Protection and Investor Protection. Each of the bureaus, described in greater detail below, is empowered to bring affirmative investigations and enforcement actions on behalf of the People of the State of New York to remedy violations of local, state, or federal laws. The externship will focus on the law enforcement work of each bureau and also discuss the various other methods the Attorney General uses to protect the rights of New Yorkers, including proposing legislation and regulations, and issuing reports and opinions.

Fieldwork

The fieldwork portion of the externship will consist of placement in one of the Economic Justice Division bureaus, where students will devote 15 hours per week. Students will be assigned to a bureau based on interest and availability. Students will work directly with site supervisors in their assigned bureaus. Site supervisors will assist students with getting assignments in their areas of interest and balancing workload. Site supervisors will also maintain an active dialogue with externship professors concerning student progress with the goal of providing regular feedback on student performance.

The work of the Economic Justice Division bureaus is described below.

Antitrust

The Antitrust Bureau is responsible for enforcing the antitrust laws to prevent anticompetitive practices, and to promote competition in New York State. The Bureau enforces New York State’s antitrust laws (the Donnelly Act) and also has the authority to sue for violations of federal antitrust laws (the Sherman and Clayton Acts). The Antitrust Bureau’s responsibilities include: using the Attorney General’s extensive investigative powers to probe into any arrangement or activity that appears to violate the antitrust laws; taking legal action to prevent or enjoin anticompetitive practices that are harmful to the public; and commencing civil or criminal actions against parties that have violated the antitrust laws to obtain damages and/or civil or criminal penalties.

Consumer Frauds & Protection

The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection prosecutes businesses and individuals engaged in fraudulent, misleading, deceptive or illegal trade practices. As part of its mission, the Bureau provides information to consumers and seeks to ensure a fair and vigorous market place. The Bureau also drafts legislation and conducts studies and writes reports on emerging consumer problems and issues.

Internet and Technology

The Bureau of Internet and Technology (BIT) is committed to protecting consumers and families from new and developing online threats. As a pioneer in this field, the Office has brought cutting edge cases and entered important settlements related to a wide range of online and technology issues, including child safety, privacy, deceptive or illegal trade practices, consumer fraud, spyware, spam, discrimination, and free speech.

Investor Protection

The Investor Protection Bureau is charged with enforcing the New York State securities law, commonly known as the Martin Act. The Martin Act gives the Attorney General broad law-enforcement powers to conduct investigations of suspected fraud in the offer, sale or purchase of securities. Where appropriate, the Attorney General may commence civil and criminal prosecutions under the Martin Act to protect investors. The Bureau also protects the public from fraud by requiring brokers, dealers, securities salespersons and investment advisers to register with the Attorney General's Office. The Bureau's other major responsibilities include the registration of franchisors and enforcement of the Franchise Law to protect franchisees.

Taxpayer Protection

The Taxpayer Protection Bureau investigates and brings civil actions to recover for any fraud committed against New York State or New York local governments. Frauds investigated by the Taxpayer Protection Bureau include but are not limited to: large tax frauds; frauds involving government contracts for goods or services; frauds involving government grants or government-funded social programs; and frauds involving government investments.

Seminar

The seminar will meet for two hours each week and will be graded based on attendance, class participation, written submissions, and performance during assigned in-class presentations. The seminar is also open to Columbia law students, but will be limited to 12 students total to encourage active discussion and dialogue. The seminar will be led by Bryan Bloom, Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Bureau, and Amy McFarlane, Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Bureau. Classes will also feature guest speakers, including executive staff and bureau chiefs.

The seminar will provide opportunities to study the work of the Economic Justice Division in detail, discuss case studies drawn from recent enforcement work, gain familiarity with various legal issue areas, reflect on fieldwork, and develop skills in legal writing, investigatory techniques, and litigation.  We will examine the role of the Attorney General in promoting economic justice from a legal, practical, and ethical perspective, including the following topics:

  • through class discussion, skills exercises, and drafting assignments, exploring the various phases of a law enforcement investigation, including initial intake, witness interviews, oral and written discovery, developing investigative and litigation strategy, and settlement negotiations;
  • an overview of the major substantive laws relevant to the work of the Economic Justice Division, including the statutory regimes underlying our antitrust, consumer frauds, internet and technology, taxpayer protection, investor protection, and real estate finance  enforcement;

  • strategic and practical considerations governing when it is appropriate to collaborate with local, state, and federal government agencies, including discussing federal preemption and navigating the various law enforcement regimes;

  • ethical issues in government investigations, including the differing ethical standards for private and public sector attorneys, and the balance between protecting confidentiality and maintaining transparency through public statements and information disclosure; and

  • the intersection between economic justice and technology, including using data analysis and other cutting-edge investigative tools to detect wrongdoing as well as anticipating and investigating problems arising from the spread of new technologies.

Readings will be assigned each week and will be provided in advance of class. Students will be asked to complete short writing assignments relating to assigned readings or reflecting on fieldwork experience.

Application Procedure

Students who wish to apply to the Economic Justice Law Enforcement Externship should submit via CAMS the standard application, resume, transcript, writing sample (preferably not more than five pages long), and two references (include their names and contact information at the bottom of your resume). These materials will be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office; students should not apply directly to the Office. Each applicant should explain why s/he is interested in this externship in the application, and should rank each Financial Justice Division bureau in order of preference. Applicants will be interviewed at the Attorney General’s offices at 28 Liberty Street, New York, New York.

Security Background Check

Students selected for the externship will also be required to pass a security background check overseen by the Attorney General’s Legal Recruitment Bureau. Students will be provided with additional paperwork relating to this process upon selection for the externship. A favorable determination from Legal Recruitment is required before an extern may begin working in the Attorney General’s Office. Students accepted for the externship should complete the required paperwork as soon as possible after acceptance into the externship so that final approval from Legal Recruitment can be timely obtained.

Student Contacts

The students listed below participated in the seminar in Fall 2018 and would be happy to be contacted by any prospective students. The Economic Justice bureau in which each student completed their field work is noted parenthetically after the student’s name:

Ryan Fackler (Antitrust)
Ryan Knox (Antitrust)
Arielle Koppell (Antitrust)
Danielle Schulkin (Internet)
Will Taylor (Antitrust)
Griffin Varner (Investor Protection)
Samuel Himel (Antitrust)
Frances Jennings (Antitrust)


* The credits consist of 3 clinical (fieldwork) credits for working 15 hours per week at the NYS Attorney General’s Office, and 2 academic seminar credits per semester. This class is offered on a Credit/Fail basis for fieldwork, and is graded for the seminar.