LGBTQ Rights Externship

LW.11130 / LW.11483
Hayley Gorenberg, Marc and Julie Platt LGBTQ Rights Externship Instructor
Open to 2L and 3L students; LLMs if space is available
Maximum of 10 students
Spring semester
5 credits*
No prerequisites or co-requisites.

Course Description

The LGBTQ Rights Externship combines fieldwork at a local organization with a weekly seminar at NYU to help students strengthen knowledge and skills fundamental to legal advocacy advancing the rights of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, queer, questioning, intersex, and/or gender-nonconforming, as well as other individuals who face discrimination, violence, or other oppression based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

While the course focuses specifically on LGBTQ issues, students cultivate skills that apply broadly to many other areas of legal advocacy, including other types of civil and human rights work. Through the seminar and externship, students develop their abilities to research crucial issues related to LGBTQ rights, critically examining, applying, distinguishing, and writing about cases and laws with notable impact on LGBTQ people. They analyze strategies for pursuing key legal victories while managing setbacks and grappling with adverse law. Students evaluate the strengths and limitations of diverse organizational models for providing legal services to LGBTQ people. They consider approaches to interviewing and building trust with clients, including when discussing sensitive subject matter. They research and draft a range of documents, from legal memos to affidavits and other case-related legal papers, with a goal of maximizing the effectiveness and impact of their advocacy. Throughout, students have the opportunity to build cultural competency in working with LGBTQ clients, including clients who face multiple and intersecting forms of oppression or disadvantage.


Each student will earn three credits through 12-14 hours per week of fieldwork at a nonprofit legal organization in New York City serving the legal needs of LGBTQ people. Partnering organizations may include: the Anti-Violence Project, The Door Legal Services Center, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, the LGBT Law & Policy Unit of the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Legal Services LGBTQ/HIV Advocacy Project, the LGBTQ Law Project of the New York Legal Assistance Group, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest's UndocuCare TGNCI+ Project, and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund,

Taken together, the partnering organizations work on a wide array of issues, including family and relationship recognition; immigration; access to public assistance; changing names and gender markers; criminal justice; bias-motivated violence; parenting rights; foster care; school bullying; censorship; and discrimination in education, employment, housing, and public accommodations. The organizations use diverse methods and strategies, including direct legal services, impact litigation, community organizing, media work, and policy advocacy.

Each student’s interest factors significantly in selecting the organization where they will complete their fieldwork. Before the semester begins, each enrolled student meets with the professor to discuss fieldwork interests. While Professor Gorenberg seeks to place students with a top-choice organization or area of work, no particular match can be guaranteed ahead of enrollment -- in part because placements also respond to evolving needs and capacity of the partnering organizations. Students taking the course must be open to working at any of the organizations listed, absent special circumstances.


In the weekly seminar, students explore a range of issues that arise in representing LGBTQ clients and in legal advocacy for LGBTQ rights. Through readings and class discussion, students consider landmark cases and major legislation as well as cutting-edge issues that shape the evolving legal landscape of LGBTQ rights. Students will consider the practical and strategic challenges encountered by lawyers and other advocates who have played a role in shaping the law.

Seminar topics may include the rights of LGBTQ young people, family rights and relationship recognition; employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; asylum law and the challenges involved in representing LGBTQ refugees; debates within the LGBTQ community about specific law-reform efforts; and issues that arise in representing clients who experience intersectional oppression. Professor Gorenberg also takes students’ interests into account in selecting topics.

The principal written assignment for the seminar will be a research project. Students will also complete 2-3 short writing assignments, including self-evaluation exercises related to their fieldwork. Students will give at least one oral presentation about their fieldwork to the class.

The course awards 2 credits for the seminar and 3 credits for fieldwork, for a total of 5 credits.

Application Procedure

Interested students should submit an application, resume and grade transcript through CAMS. Students may indicate in the application whether they have any preliminary interests or preferences with respect to types of organizations or types of experiences they seek during their fieldwork. Applicants are not required to have a preference and will have an opportunity to revised their interests if admitted to the course. The application process may include a brief interview. Prior experience working on or studying LGBTQ issues is not required for the course.

The LGBTQ Rights Externship welcomes LL.M. enrollments but does not save space for them. If space is available, it will be noted on the LLM Requirements at a Glance page.

Student Contacts

Spring 2021 Spring 2022
Andrea Green
Connor MacLean
Myles R. McMurchy
Bobbi Miller
Nicholas Principe O’Farrell
Monica Sass
Andrew Soboeiro
Taylor E. Spencer
Philip Titcomb
Violet Fortier
Clara Geffroy
Eliza Hopkins
Sara Miller
Daniel Ruskin
Lex Gaillard
Galia Popov
Ava Vecellio

* 5 credits consist of 3 credits for fieldwork and 2 credits for the seminar.