Abrams Clinical Fellowship at Yale Law School

15 Dec 2017 3:01 PM | Lauren Bartlett (Administrator)

YALE LAW SCHOOL is now accepting applications for an Abrams Clinical Fellowship.  The Abrams Clinical Fellow will be a clinical supervisor of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIA), a law student clinic whose mission is to support a robust investigative journalism and to promote the public’s right of access to information in the defense of democracy.  The Abrams Fellow will also serve as a member of the MFIA legal team supporting Yale’s Collaboration for Research Integrity and Transparency (CRIT), an inter-disciplinary initiative of Yale’s Schools of Law, Medicine and Public Health that seeks to enhance the quality and transparency of the research base for drugs and medical products.  Some litigation experience in the fields of media law, First Amendment, FOIA, Internet law, administrative law, or intellectual property law is preferred.

About the MFIA Clinic

The MFIA Clinic evolved out of the recognition that new technologies were forcing radical changes on the media market and leaving established news organizations in sufficiently precarious financial condition that they could not regularly afford to pursue the type of affirmative litigation that is essential to effective newsgathering and a functioning democracy. Nor could these news organizations continue to fight as vigorously as in the past the efforts by governments and others to unmask confidential sources and prevent whistleblowing. The Clinic was thus created in 2009 to help fill these gaps by providing pro bono legal services to journalists, pursuing impact litigation, and engaging in policy analysis on issues relating to the preservation of a vigorous press and effective government oversight.

The MFIA Clinic today is a program of the Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression at Yale Law School and is administered by the Yale Information Society Project (ISP).  Both the ISP and the Abrams Institute are directed by Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment Jack Balkin.  The Clinic is co-directed by Professor Balkin and Clinical Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow David Schulz, an experienced media litigator and Senior Counsel to the Media Practice Group at Ballard Spahr, LLP. 

Since its founding in 2009, the MFIA Clinic has achieved successes for a wide range of clients: from individual journalists at start-up websites, to such major news organizations as The New York TimesThe Guardian, the Associated Press and Pro Publica.  It has also successfully represented a range of investigative advocacy clients, from individual civil rights activists to international rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Privacy International.  The Clinic’s diverse docket is currently organized into six broad areas:

Constitutional access: Lawsuits designed to expand and enforce the constitutional right of access to governmental proceedings and related records. Typical matters include Section 1983 litigation to establish constitutional rights to information about state executions and federal litigation to establish a right of access to classified information filed in Guantanamo habeas cases.

Government accountability: Projects seeking to secure information needed for democratic oversight of government operations.  Current matters focus on law enforcement accountability, including lawsuits in New York and Los Angeles to obtain information needed for law enforcement accountability and to compel disclosure of the algorithms used in DNA matching.

Executive conflicts & ethics: Newly launched in 2017, this project works with investigative journalists and government watchdogs to shed light on Executive Branch financial entanglements and conflicts of interest. 

National security and the surveillance state: Lawsuits seeking access to information critical to oversight of our nation’s security policies.  Active matters include lawsuits seeking substantive opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and policies by which our intelligence agencies conduct surveillance on U.S. persons abroad.

Open data: Lawsuits seeking to compel the disclosure of information vital to ensure proper regulatory behavior and science-based decisions.  Current cases seek to achieve a legal framework that ensures the integrity of medical tests used in new drug approvals and promotes access to data by academic researchers.

News gathering and publication: Defending those eligible for the protections afforded by the Constitution’s press clause in a world where online publishing is widespread and litigating issues that shape the ability of journalists to gather news, including prior restraints, privacy, and the use of new technologies.

In the 2018 Spring Semester, MFIA is adding a project to work with documentarians and independent filmmakers during the production phase of their projects, providing advice on libel, privacy and other newsgathering issues.  The MFIA website provides more detail about the Clinic’s current caseload.  

About CRIT

Through research, advocacy, and litigation, CRIT is focused on ensuring that the clinical evidence that supports and informs our understanding of the safety and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other medical products is accurate, comprehensive, accessible, and reliable.  The current lack of transparency and integrity in clinical research has had serious consequences for patient and clinicians.  One of CRIT’s primary aims is to achieve a legal and regulatory environment that promotes rigorous clinical research and supports regulatory and clinical decisions that are grounded in high-quality research and accessible data and results.  More information about CRIT’s goals and activities is available on the CRIT website.

About the Abrams Clinical Fellowship

MFIA Clinic seeks candidates with at least two years of relevant experience who are interested in pursuing a career in litigation or public advocacy on issues surrounding digital age free expression and transparency, either within government, at a non-governmental organization, or as a law school clinical professor.

The Abrams Clinical Fellow will work closely with the Clinic’s team of litigators, which currently includes Clinic co-Director Dave Schulz, staff attorneys Chuck Sims and Cortelyou Kenney and another full time Fellow.  The fellowship allows young lawyers to gain hands-on experience litigating cutting edge issues, to work on legal scholarship and policy advocacy, and to participate in the intellectual life of the Yale ISP.  The duties of the Abrams Fellow include:

  • Assuming overall responsibility for a select number of active cases on the MFIA docket and supervising Yale Law School students working on those cases;
  • Sharing responsibility for administration of the MFIA Clinic, in conjunction with its student directors;
  • Assisting with the Clinic’s intake process and shaping its docket;
  • Teaching a number of substantive and skill-based sessions each semester;
  • Supervising summer law student interns at the Clinic and covering Clinic cases during semester breaks;
  • Participating in CRIT staff meetings and assuming overall responsibility for select cases pursued by CRIT’s legal team;
  • Coordinating the Freedom of Expression Scholars Conference hosted each Spring by the Abrams Institute; and
  • Engaging in the scholarly activities of the ISP, which include regular academic lunches, workshops, conferences, and talks.

Fellows must live in the New Haven area during their fellowship. The fellowship starts on July 1, 2018 and lasts for one year, renewable for a second year.  The Abrams Fellow will receive a salary commensurate with experience, a travel budget, Yale health benefits, and access to university facilities.

Application Instructions

Applications should be submitted by February 1, 2018.  Applications should include:

  • A one to five page statement describing the applicant’s interest in the fellowship, relevant practice experience, and career goals;
  • A copy of the applicant’s resume;
  • A law school transcript; and
  • At least one sample of recent legal writing, preferably a brief or memorandum.

Please indicate clearly in the application materials that you are applying for the Abrams Clinical Fellowship. Applicants are also encouraged to submit similar materials for the Stanton First Amendment Fellowship, if qualified.

Application materials should be sent (in electronic form) to Annie Cooper at ann-marie.cooper@yale.edu.

For further information, please feel free to contact MFIA Clinic Co-Director David Schulz at david.schulz@yale.edu.


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