Equal Justice and Defender Externship

LW.11245 / LW.11427
Professor Bryan Stevenson
Professor Randy Susskind
Open exclusively to 3L students in the Pro Bono Scholars Program
Maximum of 4-8 students
Not offered 2023-24
14 credits*
No prerequisites.


In academic year 2017-18, the “Equal Justice and Defender Clinic” took the form of an Externship offered through the Pro Bono Scholars Program (PBSP). Under PBSP, law students can take the New York Bar Exam in February of their 3L year if they commit to spending the last semester of law school working full time on pro bono work through the law school for credit. After law students take the Bar Exam in February, their entire courseload in the remainder of the Spring Semester (March through May) will consist of this externship. During the 12 weeks of this externship, students will be expected to spend approximately 50 hours each week participating in the externship’s fieldwork and seminar. All of this time will be spent in the Deep South, working at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, and conducting investigations, interviews, and local research in Alabama and other Southern states.

Course Description

Students who participate in this externship will work full-time from March to May on cases and projects of the Equal Justice Initiative. EJI, which is based in Montgomery, Alabama, is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. EJI provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. The organization also publishes reports and other educational materials, and provides research and recommendations to assist advocates and policymakers in the critically important work of criminal justice reform.

The seminar component of the course will complement the fieldwork with an intensive analysis of the legal, strategic, ethical and cultural issues that students confront in their fieldwork, as well as a study of the broader political, social and institutional norms which influence the lives of clients and create obstacles to successful litigation and law reform. The seminar will stress the importance of developing skills with respect to building relationships with clients, interviewing witnesses, identifying legal issues, and developing theories of systemic relief or change.

Qualifications for Applicants

The externship is open to 3Ls who will complete all other coursework required for graduation prior to the Spring Semester and will take the Bar Exam in February.

Application Procedure

Students should submit via CAMS the standard application, resume and unofficial transcript. Applicants should submit as lengthy a response to Question 4 of the standard application as they feel necessary and may ignore the 300-word limit. The clinic assistant, Noelia Rodriguez, will contact you via email to schedule an interview. If you have questions regarding the application procedure, please contact Noelia Rodriguez at (212) 998-6459 or via email.

Student Contacts

The following students were in the Equal Justice and Capital Defender Clinic, and can talk about their experiences in working on EJI cases and projects, but applicants should take into account that the nature of the course and the fieldwork will be very different next year because it will be a full-time externship: Sainath Iyer, Madeline Lagattuta, Benjamin Rutkin-Becker, and Marshall Thomas.

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