Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Five Questions for Stacy Caplow

Prof. Stacy Caplow is the Associate Dean for Professional Legal Education & Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.   Brooklyn recently announced the addition of several new clinical faculty to support new and expanding programs.


1.  Recently you shared an announcement of several new hires on the Brooklyn clinical faculty.   Who are the professors joining you, and what will they be teaching?

Brooklyn Law School was able to hire four new clinicians this year.  The first, Jodi Balsam, is filling a newly created position of Director of Civil Externships.  Jodi most recently taught in the Lawyering Program at NYLS and before that in the Lawyering Program at NYU.  She worked for a major NYC law firm, the NFL and clerked in the federal court in both the SDNY and Second Circuit.  We have one of the most extensive externship programs in the country (not difficult in NYC) in which students work in judges’ chambers, law offices (both private and public interest) government agencies, and corporations.  More than 200 students each semester participate in externships (and that’s on top of the approximately 100 in our in-house clinics and another 50 in our hybrid clinics).  Jodi will bring experience as a both a teacher and practitioner to help us harness this program by creating better designed reflective components, working more closely with adjunct faculty, and reviewing all of the placements.  It’s a huge job but she’s already hard at work. 

Two clinical faculty members were recruited through our Center for Urban and Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) a new center at Brooklyn Law School that stresses introducing students to the skills and values of being business lawyers, particularly to new enterprises.  We already have three popular and established transactional clinics —Community Development, Corporate Real Estate (affordable housing) and BLIP (Brooklyn Law Innovation & Policy-tech working with start ups and policy).  Expanding our clinics to enroll more students and to handle more and different types of projects has been a key goal of CUBE.  Our two new clinical faculty will work in these three clinics.  Ted DeBarbieri, an alum of the Community Development Clinic, has worked for years at the Urban Justice Center particularly in organizing worker’s coops.  Ted is a true ‘economic justice’ lawyer who most recently co-taught in a clinic at NYU.  The other new clinician, Marjorie White, stands in contrast to Ted.  She has spent her entire career in the private sector, both law firms and corporations, in a sophisticate global transactional practice.  Marjorie will work primarily in the BLIP clinic bringing her expertise in corporate law to Brooklyn Law School students.

Natalie Chin is the director of our newest offering, Advocates for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Clinic. This program was funded with a four-year grant to serve a very underrepresented group within the community of the disabled.  Natalie was most recently a Clinical Fellow at Cardozo where she co-taught in their Guardianship Clinic.  The AIIDD Clinic will assist individuals transitioning into adult services in employment and housing, and will also work to help draft and create instruments to assure the care and security of individuals as their own long-term caregivers age.  Natalie will spend this semester planning the program and we’ll enroll its first students in January.


2.  That is significant growth for a program in one year.   How did you, the deans and faculty at Brooklyn plan and prepare for the addition of these clinics and teachers?

It certainly is… and it’s more growth than we’ve experienced in a long time.  There are at least two explanations for this burst of activity.  First, we have a new Dean who is very supportive of our clinics and externships.  He truly understands that we need to provide the best designed, most thoughtful and most diverse opportunities to our students.  He cares about quality not just quantity.  Second, we have been really lucky in our fundraising.  It should come as no surprise that donors respect and are excited by the kind of education that takes place in clinics.  But this is really the first time in the law school’s history that we have raised so much private funding (the late lamented DOE and LSC money did wonders but that’s long gone) that does not merely allow us to expand temporarily but to do some serious long term building.  Third, it’s no accident that this is happening at a time that law schools are undergoing seismic changes.  Our school has distinguished itself for a long time by having a large, diverse and exciting clinical program.  The message about learning from practice as a way of preparing for a career is resonating even more loudly these days. Applicants to the school see these opportunities, and employers value our students’ clinical experiences.  Why wouldn’t a school support one of its most enduring and valuable pillars!?  In fact, our faculty voted a practical skills course requirement this year too.  It was easy to persuade them to do this since all but 17 students in last year’s graduating class had taken at least one semester of a clinic or externship


3.   What are your strategies and visions for the program in coming years after such a big year of expansion?

Obviously we are not likely to experience such dramatic growth often.  We will be looking for one more new clinician once Natalie starts in September since our grant also funds a fellow/staff attorney position.  So that will make 5!  But one of our senior, tenured clinicians is retiring at the end of next year so my immediate goal is to engage our faculty in thinking about what kind of clinical program should be our next step, and to start a tenure-track hiring process.  Ask me next summer if I managed to persuade my faculty that this would be an important next step.  We are also hiring a new Director of Legal Writing so I am hoping to collaborate with my new colleague to bring more writing and skills classes to the upperclass elective curriculum.  Over the past decade, most of our expansion took place in hybrid programs.  With all of these new programs and the expansion of existing programs, we should be reorienting ourselves to expanding or at least holding fast to our in-house offerings and making sure we have a strong faculty infrastructure for all of our programs


4.  How has the expansion of your programs affected your work as program director and your own teaching and clinical practice? 

Funny you should ask!  I had a sabbatical last semester but worked harder than ever recruiting all of these new hires and pushing through other projects.  After about a year of effort, I am launching a new program this fall that I’ll be teaching.  It’s called the Public Interest/Public Service Fellowship Program.  It’s modeled after and owes a big debt to the Lawyers for America Program at Hastings.  Nine students will be doing year-long, full-time externships at six different law offices (6 public interest, 3 government placements) and taking a 4-credit seminar with me that also satisfies the Professional Responsibility requirement.  After they take the bar exam, they will return to their placements as paid Fellows for one year.  In most cases, their salaries are comparable to entry-level hires at these offices.  While there is no guarantee that they will find permanent employment at the host office, at the end of two years they will have had a lot of valuable experience and will be admitted to the bar (hopefully).  And by the way, I’m still supervising students in the Safe Harbor Immigration Project and teaching immigration law.  My academic dean gave me a break this fall and allowed me to not teach Criminal Law for the first time in more than twenty years.


5.  In California, the state bar is ready to enact rules to require 50 hours of pro bono and 15 units of professional skills classes as a requirement for admission to the bar.  New York already has such rules; how have New York’s bar rules affected your work in clinics and externships?

Not really since the 50 hour requirement includes all clinics and externships in the public sector, even judicial, so our students have no trouble meeting the requirement.  As I mentioned above, we passed a skills course requirement (excluding simulations) with no controversy.  We’ve found that more than 60-70% of our students take two semesters in either a clinic or externship. 100% of the class take a skills course, including simulations.


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