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Karena Rahall to Lead Court Square Law Project

Karena Rahall to Lead Court Square Law Project

Law professor and former public defender to oversee innovative law firm 

New York, December 2, 2015 – Karena Rahall has been named Executive Director of the Court Square Law Project (CSLP), a unique, mission-driven, for-profit law firm formed by the New York City Bar Association and City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law to address the persistent justice gap in America and the employment difficulties affecting new lawyers.

“We believe Karena’s background is a perfect match for this leadership position,” said City Bar President Debra L. Raskin. “Her experience, as both an educator and a practicing lawyer, along with her track record of embracing new challenges and innovative solutions, bodes well for the success of Court Square.”

Rahall, currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Seattle University School of Law, has a wide-ranging background as a clinical educator, program director and litigator. As a criminal defense lawyer in state and federal courts in New York, she worked both as a public defender and as a solo practitioner. For nine years, she was a Senior Staff Attorney in the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society. In 2003, she trained returning refugee attorneys in Afghanistan to represent clients under the new Afghan Constitution and evolving criminal codes.

“On behalf of CUNY Law, I am delighted to welcome Karena Rahall as the new executive director of the Court Square Law Project,” said CUNY Law Dean Michelle J. Anderson. “Karena’s legal work, demonstrated leadership, and experience serving communities in need will help the project to move forward in its mission to address the chronic justice gap.”

Karena Rahall said, “I am honored to join Court Square Law Project at its inception. This project holds great promise to create a model that can address the access to justice gap, while training new lawyers to create sustainable practices serving underserved communities in New York City. I am thrilled to be a part of those efforts.”

Beginning in early 2016, the program will train and deploy new lawyers to deliver legal services to persons of moderate means in areas of chronic underrepresentation at affordable rates. In turn, the lawyers will receive a stipend and the training, mentoring and experience they need to launch sustainable commercial practices serving persons of moderate means. The program will be structured, tracked and analyzed with the intention of developing a successful and scalable model that can be replicated in other parts of the country.

Ten new attorney fellows will be enrolled in each of the first four years of the five-year pilot program, with employment taking the form of a two-year fellowship residency. The program will be housed in Court Square, Long Island City, at CUNY School of Law, which will provide a special graduate law program for participants. Fellows will benefit from many CUNY Law resources, including fully-equipped office space, a law library, and IT and other support. The City Bar will provide the Court Square Law Project with guidance, seasoned attorneys to serve as mentors to the fellows and instructors, and assistance with practice development through various programs.

Nineteen “Founding Sponsor” law firms have each pledged $100,000 in start-up funding for the venture: Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP; Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP; Debevoise & Plimpton LLP; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP; Latham & Watkins LLP; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP; O’Melveny & Myers LLP; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Proskauer Rose LLP; Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP; Shearman & Sterling LLP; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Winston & Strawn LLP.

The Court Square Law Project had its genesis in the report of the City Bar’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession, Developing Legal Careers and Delivering Justice in the 21st Century (

Nationwide, fewer than four in ten moderate-income individuals faced with a serious legal issue relating to personal finance, housing, employment, or similar matters seek professional assistance, and almost one quarter do nothing. It is difficult to find legal counsel at an affordable price and there are competing priorities for limited resources. In New York City, 99 percent of tenants are unrepresented in eviction cases; 99 percent of consumers are unrepresented in hundreds of thousands of consumer credit cases filed each year; and 97 percent of parents are unrepresented in child support matters.  

Visit the website at

Read the Task Force’s report here:

About the New York City Bar Association
The New York City Bar Association, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession, promoting reform of the law and access to justice, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association, through its 24,000 members, continues to work for political, legal, and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities. For information about the Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession report, read the executive summary at or the full report at

About CUNY School of Law
Founded in 1983, CUNY School of Law is the premier public interest law school in the country. The school trains lawyers to serve the underprivileged and disempowered and to make a difference in their communities. A greater percentage of graduates from CUNY Law choose careers in public interest and public service than any other law school in the nation. National Jurist ranks CUNY Law first in the nation in placing graduates in public interest law jobs, second in the nation for diversity, and sixth in the nation for best public interest law school. U.S. News & World Report ranks CUNY Law third in the nation for clinical training and in the top ten for diversity.

Press Contacts:

New York City Bar Association
Eric Friedman:  212.382.6754,

CUNY School of Law
Lucille Renwick:  718.340.4472,