Practica

Practicum courses combine study of a substantive area under a full-time professor with service learning alongside practicing lawyers.

These four-credit courses are based on 120 hours of in-field work (about 10 hours a week) assisting and observing practicing attorneys. They also require weekly classroom work in conjunction with a full-time professor, exploring the substantive law in depth and reflecting on the process of becoming an attorney.

The course requirements include assigned reading, weekly journaling to reflect on the students' experiences in practice, and an end-of-semester white paper on a legal topic that grows from their work. The final products will be published on the School of Laws website, making them available to practicing attorneys and scholars worldwide, and also demonstrating the students' analytical and legal writing skills.

Criminal Law Practicum

Students enrolled in this course will actively participate in the defense of criminal cases handled by local attorneys under the Erie County Assigned Counsel Program, which provides legal assistance to indigent defendants. Students will be required to perform approximately 10 hours per week of fieldwork in this course. Depending upon case needs, students will assist assigned counsel in investigating and preparing cases for trial (including researching relevant legal and evidentiary issues, writing trial memoranda, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the case, preparing witnesses and attending the trial) as well as evaluating plea offers and sentence commitments. Students will also produce a brief applied research paper on a topic of choice related to their fieldwork. These papers may be published online. In addition to working directly with assigned counsel, students will attend evening classroom sessions to review the law and policy, prepare for their fieldwork and discuss related issues.

Post-Incarceration Federal Reentry Practicum

Each year over 650,000 ex-offenders are released from state and federal custody. The process of leaving prison and “reentering” society poses many challenges for these individuals, their families, and the community. Barriers to obtaining employment, housing, and social assistance interfere with successful reentry and increase the likelihood of recidivism. In this Post-Incarceration Reentry Practicum, we will discuss social and legal barriers to reentry and explore potential solutions. Students will attend a weekly classroom session where we will discuss some of the policies that have led to the mass incarceration and reentry crisis. We will also discuss nationwide efforts that have been made to mitigate the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.

Students will also engage in service learning. Working with attorneys from Legal Aid, students will research solutions to legal issues encountered by newly-released offenders. Students will interview program participants, assist in assessing legal problems, and draft appropriate briefs, memoranda, or other advocacy materials to resolve the issue.

In addition to weekly classes, students will be expected to attend biweekly Federal Reentry Court sessions (held on Thursday afternoons in the federal courthouse from 2:30 – 5:00 p.m.). There, students will observe court proceedings and the “reentry team meeting” with Judge Hugh Scott, probation, and court staff. Each student will be required to write a final research paper addressing a reentry-related issue.

Pro Se Civil Litigation Support Practicum

More than twenty-five million Americans are denied legal assistance each year due to lack of resources. This crisis impacts individuals and families that are part of our most vulnerable populations. In this service learning practicum, students will interview clients at the courthouse and assist practicing attorneys in advising clients through the ECBA Volunteer Lawyer’s Project (VLP).

Working with Professor Bernadette Gargano, Bridget O’Connell, Esq., and VLP, students will also perform legal research, develop legal resources for unrepresented litigants, and provide litigants with assistance in navigating legal documents and the court system. Students will staff either the Help Desk in Erie County Family Court or the Pro Se Assistance Program in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

As part of their fieldwork, students will participate in skills training and write a white paper (5-6 pages) on a social justice/access to justice topic of the student’s choosing. These papers will be published on the law school website.

Applicants must:

(1) be available to work in court for at least two days per week; and (

2) provide a copy of their Spring class and work schedules with their application or as soon as they are available.

The Family Court Help Desk is staffed from 11:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The Federal Court Pro Se Assistance Program is located in both Rochester and Buffalo. In Buffalo, the PSAP program is staffed from 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. In Rochester, the PSAP program is staffed on Wednesdays only from 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

This course satisfies the skills requirement and provides the 50-hours of pro bono service required for admission to the NYS Bar.