State Legislative Externship

LW.12815 / LW.12816
Professor Rick Hills
Professor David Siffert
Open to 2Ls and 3Ls
Maximum of 8 students
Fall semester
5 credits*
Prerequisites: None

Course Description

US state legislatures have plenary power.  Unlike the federal government, which needs to cite a Constitutional enumeration of power to act, the state legislatures can legislate on any topic not foreclosed by state constitutional or federal constitutional or statutory prohibition.  In part as a result, an enormous amount of policy is defined by state legislation. State legislatures are, however, largely ignored in law schools: The basic Legislation and Regulation courses at most law schools include little if any state-law material, preferring to focus on classics of federal statutory interpretation and administrative law.  State legislatures are also often underfunded and understaffed, with part-time members in need of legal and policy expertise that they cannot afford.

This externship aims to correct this curricular imbalance. At the same time, the externship also aims to give students practical experience with the drafting rather than merely the interpretation of legislation.

In this externship, students will learn about the state legislative process in New York from the inside.  By working with a legislator to draft bills, students will learn how to choose the best legislative text to achieve a desired policy result. They will also gain experience in working collaboratively with issue area experts and other legislators to produce bills that have the best chance of being introduced and ultimately enacted. Finally, they will engage with lobbyists and others from the well-populated environment of New York's political communities for policy advocacy.

Fieldwork

Each student will be placed with a state legislator in either the Senate or the Assembly.  Every effort will be made to place students with legislators whose policy goals match their own.  Students will work with their assigned legislator to draft legislation and will be supervised by a member of the legislator’s staff selected at the beginning of the externship.  Each student will develop one bill on their own initiative and work on one bill for which the legislator would like drafting assistance.  Students will also be paired with an issue area expert, likely from the NYU faculty, to help substantively supervise the drafting process.  Students will be connected with and will receive feedback from issue area groups active on the subject.  Students will then will work with their legislator and central staff's bill drafting department to get the bill introduced.  Lastly, students will reach out to other legislators and interested parties to gain support for the bills.  Throughout the process, students will work with and receive feedback from their legislative staff supervisor.  Note that grading will be conducted by course faculty members, who will consult with and receive feedback from supervisors.  Students will be expected to perform 10 hours of field work per week.

Seminar

All students and faculty will meet weekly as a group for two hours each week to discuss progress, give and receive feedback, and simulate solutions to obstacles they may experience in the field, in order to develop skills that can be used both in the externship and in a future legal career. 

Application Procedure

Interested students should submit the standard application, resume, and transcript through CAMS. Students may then be contacted for an interview.


* 5 credits include 3 externship credits based on 10 hours of field work per week and 2 academic seminar credits.