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Civil Rights

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Advising Contacts

Career Development Office Faculty


Lawyers who practice civil rights law follow the path of dedicated members of the bar who answered the call to serve society. By enforcing and defending the laws that guarantee individuals the right to receive equal treatment and to be free from discrimination, civil rights lawyers help shape public views, as well as the law. The goal of civil rights lawyers is to advance equality for all people regardless of race, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or other recognized classifications. These lawyers work in a variety of practice areas, including education, employment, housing, voting, and criminal justice. Examples of civil rights include the right to privacy; the right to vote; the right to freedom of speech, press, and assembly; and freedom from involuntary servitude.

Many civil rights laws originate in the U.S. Constitution, other federal legislation, or federal case law. Most states have also passed civil rights statutes or have civil rights laws in their constitutions. Civil rights laws can also originate from municipalities. Accordingly, as a practitioner, you may litigate in federal or state courts or appear before federal, state, or local agencies. You may also engage in policymaking and public advocacy. Because the duties of civil rights lawyers vary greatly–even within each practice area, there are many opportunities to exercise different skill sets.

Civil rights lawyers work in government, the public interest sector, and private practice. Many public interest outfits hire lawyers who have been in practice for at least a few years and do not typically employ lawyers directly from law school. Civil rights lawyers often find immeasurable satisfaction and fulfillment in knowing that they are working for the public good.


Foundation Courses
All are strongly recommended and should be taken early in the upper-level years.
Advanced Courses
Advanced coursework that will build your substantive knowledge in this pathway.
Writing Courses
Coursework to hone your writing skills and develop a portfolio of practicing writing in your field.
Skills Courses
Courses that will develop your oral advocacy, ADR, and other skills necessary for practice.
  • Administrative Law
  • Criminal Procedure: Investigation
  • Evidence
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Appellate Advocacy Moot Court
  • Bioethics
  • Children and the Law Seminar
  • Comparative Equality Seminar
  • Constitutional Theory
  • Contemporary Criminal Justice Seminar
  • Consumer Protection
  • Counterterrorism Law
  • Criminal Procedure: Adjudication
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Employment Law
  • Fact-Writing and Persuasion in Legal Documents
  • Family Violence & Sexual Assault
  • Federal Courts
  • First Amendment: Freedom of Expression
  • First Amendment: Religion Clauses
  • International Human Rights Advanced Topics
  • International Human Rights Law
  • Internet Law
  • Issues of Race and Gender in Law
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Labor Law
  • Law and Religion Seminar
  • Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
  • Mediation: Representing Clients
  • National Security and the Law
  • New York Criminal Practice
  • Nuremberg & Its Legacies in Law and History
  • Perspectives on Justice
  • Poverty Law Seminar
  • Drafting: Federal Civil Practice
  • Drafting: Federal Criminal Practice
  • Drafting: Litigation Documents and Contracts
  • Drafting: New York Civil Practice
  • Legal Writing-Advanced
  • New York Civil Practice: Jurisdiction and Pleading
  • New York Civil Practice: Pre-trial and Post-trial Procedure
  • Supreme Court Advocacy Brief
  • Advanced Interviewing and Counseling
  • Advanced Trial Advocacy
  • Deposition Practice
  • Legal Research-Advanced
  • Mediation: Representing Clients
  • Negotiation (Intensive)
  • Pre-Trial Advocacy
  • Trial Advocacy

Course Descriptions


Students who participate in a clinic are exposed to a practice area through the representation of actual clients under faculty supervision. The following clinics are relevant to this pathway:
Externships place students in a wide variety of not-for-profit, government, public interest, and private organizations and firms, where they work directly under the supervision of a practicing attorney. The external placements are bolstered by an in-school seminar in which students analyze their practical experiences and gain skills necessary for the profession. Sample placements in this pathway include:
  • New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)
  • Latino Justice PRLDEF
  • Legal Action Center
  • The Legal Aid Society
  • Mental Hygiene Legal Services
  • New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
  • The Safe Center LI
  • Sewanhaka Central High School District
  • The Urban Justice Center
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)


Students should seek out connections with practitioners and other students, both internally and externally. Adjunct professors can be an excellent resource both for guidance and for employment opportunities. The professional bar associations also welcome student participation and offer reduced membership rates for students. Some bar sections and committees look for students to provide research or other assistance on projects. St. John’s faculty are also an essential resource. Students should make an effort to get to know faculty who teach and have experience in their chosen areas. Finally, students should connect with other students who share similar interest through student organizations and attendance at Law School events.

Professional Organizations

Student Organizations

Students should also join practice area-specific student organizations

Suggested Path

Part-time students should spread out the suggested path below to account for their expected date of graduation.

Year Fall Spring Summer
  • Required courses
  • Pro bono
  • Required courses
  • Pro bono
  • Work for a judge, public interest organization, firm, or government agency in civil rights
  • Evidence
  • Criminal Procedure: Investigation
  • Administrative Law
  • Electives
  • Continue pro bono work
  • Clinic or externship in civil rights
  • Trial Advocacy
  • APWR course
  • Electives / Core elective
  • Continue pro bono work
  • Clinic, externship, or Applied Skills course
  • Work for a judge, public interest organization, firm, or government agency in civil rights
  • Advanced electives in Constitutional Law
  • Other electives
  • Complete SWR paper in civil rights law
  • Continue pro bono work
  • Clinic or externship in civil rights
  • New York Practice or Federal Practice
  • Electives
  • Continue pro bono work
  • Clinic or externship in civil rights
  • Graduation
  • Bar Exam

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