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, which combines fieldwork at a local organization with a weekly seminar at NYU, provides students an opportunity to develop and strengthen knowledge and skills that are fundamental in legal advocacy for, and representation of, individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, queer, questioning, intersex, and/or gender non-conforming, as well as other individuals who may 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. Specific skills developed through the course include skills in the following: researching, critically examining, applying, distinguishing, and writing about cases and laws related to LGBTQ issues or that have a particular impact on LGBTQ people; building from legal victories while managing setbacks and distinguishing (and/or overcoming) adverse law; evaluating the strengths and limitations of diverse organizational models for providing legal services to LGBTQ individuals; drafting affidavits and analogous documents; interviewing and building trust with clients, including when discussing sensitive subject matter; and 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 non-profit legal organization in New York City serving the legal needs of LGBTQ people. In recent semesters, each student has been placed at one of eleven partnering organizations: the Anti-Violence Project, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, the LGBT Law & Policy Initiative at the Legal Aid Society,  the LGBT & HIV Advocacy Project at Brooklyn Legal Services, 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, the Peter Cicchino Youth Project at the Urban Justice Center, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and the Transgender Law Center. In each spring semester for the last six years, between six and eight of these eleven organizations have hosted students; the selection of organizations for a particular semester depends in part on students’ interests. A similar set of organizations is expected to host students in Spring 2021.

Taken together, the partnering organizations work on a wide array of issues, including family and relationship recognition; immigration; access to public assistance; documentation regarding name changes 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 employ a diversity of methods and strategies, including direct legal services, impact litigation, media work, and public-policy advocacy.

The selection of a fieldwork organization for each student depends largely on the student’s interests. Before the semester begins, each enrolled student submits a confidential form to the professor that ranks the fieldwork organizations according to the student’s preferences. Since Professor Kavey began teaching the course (Spring 2015), about 60% of students have been placed at an organization that they ranked as a first choice, about 30% have been placed at an organization that they ranked as a second choice, and the remainder have been placed at an organization that they ranked as a third choice. Professor Kavey will continue to make every reasonable effort to match students with a top-choice organization; however, no particular match can be guaranteed ahead of enrollment, in part because placements depend as well on the evolving needs and capacity of the partnering organizations. Students taking the course must therefore be open to working at any of the organizations listed above, absent special circumstances.


In the weekly seminar, students explore a range of issues that arise in the representation of 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 ever-evolving legal debate over 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 in this area. Materials and exercises on important practice concepts and skills are integrated into the seminar.

Topics covered in the seminar may include relationship recognition; employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; 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 face intersecting forms of oppression. The professor also takes students’ interests into account in selecting topics.

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

The course credits will be 2 credits for the seminar, which will meet weekly for 100 minutes, and 3 credits for fieldwork for a total of 5 credits. The seminar will meet during the late afternoon or early evening on a day to be determined.

Application Procedure

Interested students should submit an application, resume and grade transcript through CAMS. In answering Question 4 in the clinic application, students should indicate whether they have any preliminary interests or preferences with respect to fieldwork (e.g., regarding a particular organization or a type of legal work). Students are not required to have a preference at the application stage, however, and they will have an opportunity to amend their answers if they are 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 2020 Spring 2019
Anika Ades
Jack Boyle
Kathryn Evans
Patrick Derocher
Hannah Howard
Svetlana Kobtseva
Gabriella Larios
Morgan Meyer
Joanna Rothchild
Kathleen Daly
Melanie English
Joanna Loomis
Sarah Elizabeth Murphy
Laura Narefsky
Raymond Ngu
Olivia Post Rich
Matthew Daniel Rayburn
Madz Reeve
Bailey Strelow

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