Externships and judicial externships are great opportunities for law students to learn by working. The School of Law is very grateful for the wonderful array of opportunities and experience that our externship and judicial externship hosts provide. In return, our hosts benefit from the students' energy and assistance.
Because the law students receive three or more credits for working in not-for-profit and governmental offices, there are curricular, substantive and administrative requirements for the law school, placement hosts and students. Each externship or judicial externship is an ongoing class that is established in conjunction with a faculty supervisor and a site supervisor.
The American Bar Association accreditation rules for law schools and the faculty of the law school require the following:
An externship must “provide substantial lawyering experience that is (1) reasonably similar to the experience of a lawyer advising or representing a client engaging in other lawyers tasks…” (ABA Standard304(c)). It must also include the opportunity for performance and feedback, self- evaluation and “(v) a classroom instructional component, regularly scheduled tutorials, or other means of ongoing, contemporaneous, faculty-guided reflection;” (Id.)
Law school externships and judicial externships are available only at pre-approved placements, including, but not limited to non-profit legal offices and governmental law offices.
Because the School of Law is granting credit to student externs and judicial externs, and in order to allow all students a fair chance at admission to externships and judicial externships, the law school will select the students for each placement from among the students who apply for the particular externship or judicial externship. The screening process for the externship and judicial externship program typically includes a review of the student's law school transcript, resume, and a writing sample to ensure that the student is succeeding in school, meets any skills requirements or prerequisites, and to determine if the student has any relevant job experience. If externship or judicial externship hosts request that students have particular skills, experience or have taken specific courses, the law school will honor any reasonable requests.
In order to receive credit, students must primarily perform legal work, including conducting traditional legal research; writing memos, briefs, and papers on legal issues; performing legislative research; responding to inquiries on legal issues or that require legal research; and observing or assisting in court or agency-based litigation proceedings. Although some clerical tasks may be part of any legal project, students may not spend a significant amount of time on non-legal work.
The students must be supervised by an attorney. In addition, the students must work primarily in the externship or judicial externship host's office, except when research, court or agency proceedings, or other work-related requirements take the student out of the office. This means there must be an appropriate workspace in the host's facility that the student uses. The student may not work in another organization's offices, even if the other organization contracts with the host office.
A typical three-credit externship or judicial externship requires students to work a total of 135 hours over the course of the 12-week semester, although the requirements may vary, depending on the academic credits awarded and the particular requirements of an externship or judicial externship. For the six-week summer semester, the hours worked per week would double for most placements. The students’ schedules are determined by their supervisors. The students may not be paid for their work because they are receiving credit for the work they do.
Students provide their supervising law school faculty member with periodic reports concerning their work, without breaching any confidentiality restrictions. Students must comply with any schedules, processes, confidentiality requirements and any other work-related responsibilities of their host offices. At the mid-point of the semester, supervisors evaluate each student who worked at the host office. We encourage supervisors to take some time to go over the evaluation with the student personally and provide them with constructive feedback. Although a final formal evaluation is not required, supervisors will discuss their student’s progress at the end of the semester, and prepare to transfer any unfinished work. For most externships and judicial externships, the evaluation is relatively brief and can be sent and completed electronically through e-mail. In most externships and judicial externships, students are graded on a pass/fail system; the supervising faculty member assigns the grades.
Externships and judicial externships are not assigned on an ad hoc basis. Rather, placement offices are pre-screened and pre-approved and are listed in our course registration materials. Each externship and judicial externship requires faculty supervision and is a class for which all qualified students may apply. To create a new externship, the faculty supervisor must meet with the placement supervisor to determine if a potential externship or judicial externship is academically appropriate and meets all the law school’s requirements.
Except for special cases during the summer semester, students cannot place themselves in an externship or judicial externship for credit. In addition, the externship and judicial externship program does not create a pool of potential credit-earning externs or judicial externs for periodic placements based on outside organizations’ requests for assistance. The Career Services Office, however, can always post volunteer opportunities from outside organizations for student interns who would not earn credit through the law school nor be supervised by the law school in any way.
We would be happy to discuss the creation of additional opportunities for our students with the legal community. If you would like to discuss creating an externship please contact our Externship Program Administrator, Dawn Skopinski.