Externships and Judicial Clerkships - Policies and Procedures

Adopted by the Faculty on March 27, 2008 and revised September, 2023.

I. Introduction

Externships (a.k.a. “Field Placements”) provide law students with a direct opportunity for service learning that engages in law-related work in courts, public agencies, legislative offices, not-for-profit organizations, and other placements. Externships help students link theory and practice while providing valuable service-learning. At the University at Buffalo School of Law, externship students work in the field alongside experts in a variety of practice areas, and simultaneously take a course with weekly assignments designed to develop professional identity, skills, ethics, and cultural competence. Externs are expected to fulfill the on-the-job and academic requirements of their externship placement with a high degree of integrity, competence, and professionalism, and engage in regular self-evaluation and reflection.

The externships at UB are run by a team. A faculty member designs the learning materials, helps coordinate appropriate placements with proficient field supervisors, tracks progress, and assesses academic achievement. An administrative team supports the educational experience with field supervisors (trained and supported attorneys or judges), who offer meaningful service work to students, monitor the student’s work over the course of the placement, communicate regularly with the supervising faculty member, and participate in evaluating the student’s academic achievement with formative feedback on multiple lawyering projects.

Externships have been offered at the Law School for many years under a variety of designations. The policies and procedures described herein are intended to replace any previous procedures adopted by the Law School Academic Policy and Program Committee (“APPC”). These revised policies and procedures provide guidance for participating students, faculty and staff at the School of Law, and field placement site supervisors. These Policies and Procedures provide detail to supplement the basic requirements for externships and related experiential courses set forth in the University at Buffalo School of Law’s General Academic Requirements, Policies, and Code of Student Conduct.

II. Educational Objectives

The purpose of offering an externship for academic credit is to give students a chance to observe and perform work that lawyers and judges do, while studying related professional identity matters, skills, ethics, as well as bias and cultural competence. The key to a successful placement is the training, guidance, and evaluation provided by the attorneys and judges who act as field supervisors, working with and the faculty members who arrange and monitor the placements and administrative team who coordinates the program. In the field, law students will have the opportunity to develop many analytical and communication skills that are often best learned in practice settings, such as, interviewing, counseling, case management, writing, critical thinking/reading/listening, time management, and organizing for success. In some cases, under a student practice rule, they will be able to appear in court on behalf of clients. By observing and assisting practitioners in their day-to-day practices, law students can begin to relate the theories and doctrines they have learned in class to different legal institutions and processes. Students will have an opportunity to reflect on ethical dilemmas, workplace conflicts, and the limits of legal solutions to real-life problems.

Because of the varieties of work settings and projects that might make appropriate externships, it is not possible to establish across-the-board criteria for student placement work. At a minimum, however, over the course of a semester, students will likely complete one significant or several short pieces of written work or legal or policy analysis. In addition, students will be expected to complete weekly assignments, including reflections and self-evaluations on their work, in a timely manner. The field supervisor is expected to assign work to the student, meet with the student at least once a week, and be available to guide the student. In addition, the field supervisor should assist the faculty member in evaluating the student’s performance by completing and submitting a final report, as outlined below. Perhaps as important as the legal skills they explore, most students who extern also gain confidence in their abilities to function as an attorney.

III. General Rules

A. Eligibility and Prerequisites

1. Students in the J.D. program may not enroll in an externship before they have successfully completed all required courses in the first-year curriculum.

2. Three-year J.D. students who are under academic supervision may not participate in an externship before successfully completing:

(a) at least forty-five (45) credit hours toward the J.D. degree;

(b) the second-year writing requirement under Section III.B.2.A.i. of the GARP (the “Second-Year Writing Requirement”).

3. Transfer students may not participate in an externship before:

(a) completing at least one year in residence at the Law School; and

(b) earning at least a 3.25 cumulative GPA while in residence at the Law School.

4. Students with a cumulative GPA below 3.0 at the time of registration may not enroll in an externship without the approval of the Vice Dean for Student Affairs.

5. In order to enroll in an externship, the student must submit a formal application and obtain the prior written approval of the externship administration.

B. Academic Credit, Hours of Field Work, and Compensation

1. Limit on externships. Students are permitted to enroll in no more than two externships for academic credit toward the J.D. degree.

2. Limit on repeating an externship placement. Students may receive academic credit for only one semester with an externship placement absent extraordinary circumstances and prior approval of the externship administration.

3. Limit on credit hours. Students may not receive more than four (4) credit hours in any individual externship or seven (7) credit hours total in externships; provided, however, that a student may receive up to six (6) credit hours in an intensive judicial externship and up to three (3) additional credit hours in a second externship.

4. Limit on externships in a semester. Students may take only one externship in a semester.

5. Minimum hours of field work. Students enrolled in externships must complete at least forty-five (45) hours of field work for each credit hour earned, exclusive of any hours worked in connection with any related classroom component.

6. Expenses and Compensation. Students are responsible for ordinary expenses associated with an externship. The Law School will not grant credit to a student for participation in an externship program for which the student receives compensation. This does not preclude reimbursement of incidental out-of- pocket expenses related to the externship.

7. International Students. Students who hold F-1 status must obtain CPT authorization before beginning any externship to avoid jeopardizing their immigration status. Prior to the start of the semester, students are required to work with externship administration to obtain CPT authorization to the externship administration. Externship administration shall confirm CPT authorization has been granted before commencement of the externship.

C. Supervision, Evaluation, and Grading

1. All externships will be arranged between the externship administration and the attorney or judge who agrees to be the externship supervisor. Students are not permitted to arrange externships.

2. Once a student has commenced an externship for credit, the field supervisor, the student, and the externship administration must have established and regularized communication.

3. A student’s academic achievement in an externship must be evaluated by a faculty member.

4. The field supervisor is required to participate with the faculty member in the evaluation of the student’s academic achievement through the filing of a final report.

5. The faculty member will review the field supervisor’s final report and, where necessary for evaluative or recordkeeping purposes, the student’s non-confidential work product, and assign a grade of Satisfactory (“S”) or Unsatisfactory (“U”).

6. The work in an externship must be completed in the semester for which the student is registered. Extensions of externships will not be permitted absent extraordinary circumstances. Any extension shall be limited to a time agreed upon by the Vice Dean of Student Affairs and the externship administration.

D. Field Site Visits and Supervisory Training

Periodic visits and field supervisor training by the externship administration site should be arranged at each field placement. Initial visits shall be in person. Subsequent visits may, in the discretion of the externship administration, be performed remotely.

E. Classroom or Tutorial Component

All externships shall be taken concurrently with a graded contemporaneous classroom or tutorial component taught by a faculty member. Students must complete all classroom assignments, including self-evaluation and reflection assignments, in a timely manner.

F. Reports by Field Supervisors

1. Each field supervisor will be required to submit an evaluation of the students’ work to the externship administration, which will be responsible for advising the student’s field supervisor of the reporting obligation and deadlines.

2. The field supervisor’s final report will include:

(a) a critique of the work product completed by the student; and

(b) a written evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s work.

3. Copies of all

G. Student Reports

1. According to a schedule determined by the externship administration, the student will submit periodic updates on the work accomplished in the externship with the externship administration and/or designated faculty member.

2. Students are responsible for ensuring that they are making satisfactory progress toward completing sufficient externship hours to qualify for the designated credit hours. Students are required to maintain current time reports in the manner designated by the externship administration.

H. Termination of an Externship

1. Students who do not meet all the requirements of the externship, as determined by the designated faculty member and with the advice of the field supervisor, will not be permitted to continue in the externship.

2. The externship administration will review the interim reports of the student and communicate with the field supervisor and may terminate the externship if:

(a) the student is not meeting the obligations to the placement;

(b) the student fails to file required reports on time, or otherwise fulfill the requirements established by the externship administration, including the designated faculty member; or

(c) the field supervisor is not involving the student in work that develops professional lawyering skills.

3. In the event of termination by the faculty member of a student’s externship prior to the end of the semester, the faculty member will assign an Unsatisfactory (“U”) grade.

I. Evaluation of Externships

1. At the end of each semester, all students enrolled in externships will be provided with forms to evaluate their supervisors, faculty members, and their overall experience in the externship. These evaluations will be provided to the externship administration.

2. In accordance with relevant ABA standards and with established procedures for review of curriculum, the Vice Dean for Experiential Education will monitor and periodically arrange for evaluation of the externship program.

IV. Waiver Requests

A. Overview

These Externship Policies and Procedures are intended to balance the potential benefits of externships against other educational objectives within the Law School curriculum. Accordingly, waivers of the requirements and limitations outlined herein are disfavored.

B. Provisions not subject to waiver

The following provisions are not waivable: III.A.1; III.A.2.a-b; III.A.3; III.A.4.; III.B.2-7.

C. Timely Submissions

Any request to waive one or more of the provisions of these Externship Policies and Procedures must be submitted to the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs no later than two weeks after registration opens for the semester in which the student seeks to enroll in the externship. Waiver requests that are submitted after this deadline will be denied absent extraordinary circumstances.

D. Minimum requirements for a waiver request

At a minimum, waiver requests shall include the following:

(a) Student name and UB person number;

(b) The student’s 1L GPA at UB (if applicable);(c) The student’s Current Cumulative Law GPA;

(d) Identity of any previous externship placement for academic credit and the semester in which academic credit was earned for this placement;

(e) Identity of the requested placement and the semester in which academic credit for this placement will be earned;

(f) A reference to the provision(s) to be waived; and

(g) A detailed explanation of the reason(s) the waiver is warranted.

E. Waiver of Externship Cap

Only students with a cumulative GPA above 3.25 in first-year courses and an overall cumulative GPA at the law school of 3.4 or higher may be granted a waiver of the externship cap outlined in section III.B.1.

F. Review

As the body responsible for implementation of the curriculum, the APPC reviews waiver requests to ensure that any waiver will be consistent with (a) the overall academic goals and strategies set by the faculty, including those reflected in these policies and procedures, and (b) the relevant ABA Standards. When timely consultation with the APPC is not possible, the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs may review a waiver request on the committee’s behalf. In either case, the APPC or the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs may request additional information from the applicant, the externship administration, or others prior to issuing a decision on the waiver request.

G. Final determinations

Once issued, the APPC’s (or the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs’) decision concerning a waiver request is final. The APPC may, in its sole discretion, invite the applicant to revise and resubmit a request, and such resubmissions will be reviewed even if received after the deadline outlined in Section IV.C, above. However, the APPC (or Vice Dean for Academic Affairs) may establish a deadline for any resubmissions, and any resubmissions after this date will not be considered.