Every year, hundreds of Brooklyn Law School students work in judges’ chambers, nonprofits, law firms, and government offices as part of the Law School’s highly-lauded clinical program. With 25 different clinics and externships, the program is among the most diverse and comprehensive in the country. As part of its commitment to adapt to the new changes and developments in the legal progression, the Law School adds new clinics every year that address cutting-edge legal topics.
“The Law School is constantly expanding the opportunities provided to our students,” said Professor Stacy Caplow, Director of Clinical Legal Education, “particularly by forming partnerships with other agencies and organizations.”
This year, the Law School added the New York Civil Court Consumer Law Externship, a program that collaborates with the Brooklyn Bar Association, in which students counsel and represent clients with consumer debt legal problems. It also added the Military Legal Practice Externship, which exposes students to a potential career in the military and to explore the inner workings of the military legal process so that they can be informed citizens when it comes to the military issues being debated in our nation.
The Military Legal Practice Externship is the creation of Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Hennigan, a Major in the Air Force reserve with ten years of service with the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. Hennigan’s experience includes a remote tour in the Republic of Korea, a deployment to the Middle East, and a tour as expert prosecutor in numerous high-profile courts-martial, including the successful prosecution of an Air Force JAG Officer who conspired to commit the murder-for-hire of his wife.
“My hope is that participation in the clinic will give BLS students an advantage in the incredibly competitive JAG selection process. But, even if the students don’t pursue careers in the military, they will be more informed,” she said.
The clinic includes several components. First, each student is assigned to represent the government in an area relating to military legal practice. This semester students were assigned to the 305th Air Mobility Wing Legal Office at Joint Base McGuire- Dix-Lakehurst NJ (a prosecutor’s office), the Office of the Area Defense Counsel at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at the Fort Hamilton Army Base, and the Office of Regional Counsel Veterans Administration in Brooklyn. During their internships, the students are exposed to a wide variety of military legal topics. These include: preparing for military courts-martial (working with either defense attorneys or prosecutors); assisting active duty, dependent, and retired military members with family law issues; and defending the government in medical malpractice cases, and reviewing government contracts.
In addition to the hands-on training, the clinic includes a weekly seminar where students receive formal lectures on federal and military civil and criminal practice. Hennigan also engages students in discussions regarding the role of being a government lawyer and the ethics involved in such a career. At the seminar, guest speakers from the Department of Defense, both active duty and civilian, also share their experiences as military attorneys. Over the course of the clinic’s first semester, Hennigan has hosted an impressive group that included an Air Force reservist with extensive experience in human rights law who was defense counsel to inmates at Guantanamo Bay, a reserve Naval intelligence officer who discussed the role of the JAG in combat, an Air Force Reserve JAG who discussed his experience trying military courts-martial, a retired Colonel in the Army, who offered the perspective of a military judge, and a former Marine Captain, who shared his experience as a Marine officer.