Practice of Law in Public Sector
This seminar will seek to replicate practice conditions in a General Counsel’s Office of a governmental agency. Students will serve principally as colleagues in addressing a broad range of issues that a government lawyer might be expected to encounter in the everyday practice of law, including transactional, general advice, and litigation-oriented assignments. With some guidance, students will be expected to conduct independent legal research on the topics being covered, and a portion of every weekly seminar will be devoted to practice skills exercises: presentations to colleagues and clients, preparation of advice memos to clients, fact-finding investigations and litigation skills development. Case studies and issues will be presented and analyzed with a view towards the legal and public policy implications of proceeding down any given path. Students will also participate as “adversaries” in a variety of settings, including mock settlement discussions, mediations, and oral arguments.
The semester will be divided roughly into three modules, with one significant written assignment to be completed for each module. The first module, loosely characterized as organization and governance, will look to the powers, duties, mission and responsibilities of public agencies, including how they are held accountable to the public in the conduct of their affairs. Typical constitutional issues will be addressed in this module as well, such as First Amendment rights of employees and development of rules governing expressive conduct in public places. The second module will focus on litigation topics, and will follow a multi-million dollar commercial dispute through initial presentation of a problem, pre-litigation settlement attempts, a federal court complaint, a settlement agreement and a post-settlement arbitration proceeding on an open legal issue. Emphasis will also be placed on the factual development skills needed to present or defend a summary proceeding in New York State courts (“Article 75” or “Article 78” proceedings), typical tasks needed by those who litigate for or against governmental bodies. Students will be asked to review, analyze and critique affidavits and briefs submitted in actual court cases. The final module will focus on non-litigation activities typically encountered in a law department of a public agency, such as project development and implementation, including procurement methodology and competitive bidding, environmental and public participation considerations, development and drafting of key contractual provisions in commercial or construction contracts, and consideration of employment-related issues, such as civil service and public sector labor law provisions.