Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Individual Externships
- What is an individual externship?
- Are there any limitations on enrollment in an individual externship?
- What is the difference between an individual externship and an externship clinic?
- Why should a student do an individual externship?
- How does a student find a suitable field placement?
- What is the enrollment process for individual externships?
- What are the deadlines for enrollment in an individual externship?
- How do students find a faculty supervisor?
- What is the placement supervisor's role?
- What is the faculty supervisor's role?
- What reporting requirements are there during the externship?
- How many credits can be earned for an individual externship?
- How are externships graded?
- How do students get credit for externships?
- May 1L students participate in the individual externship program?
An individual externship is a credit-bearing experiential learning opportunity that is created by the student and tailored to a student’s own interests and his or her educational and career goals. As an extern, a student performs volunteer legal work at a legal organization or practice (called a “field placement”) under the supervision of an attorney (the “placement supervisor”) who provides work projects and observational opportunities designed to develop the student’s lawyering skills and to enhance the student’s understanding of the legal profession. In addition to working at the field placement, the student extern is required to communicate with and provide written reflections to a faculty member of his or her choosing (the “faculty supervisor”) throughout the term of the externship.
Yes. First-year students may not participate in the individual externship program during the fall and spring semesters of their first year of law school. 1L students who have completed the fall and spring semester classes may enroll in an individual externship beginning in the June Term, even if they are also taking Moot Court during this term.
Students may not earn more than a total of eight (8) credits from any combination of individual externships and special research projects (SRP's). Students may not earn more than three (3) credits during the fall or spring terms or four (4) credits during the summer term.
Clinic enrollment, including participation in the externship program, is limited to one course in a single term. Students may not enroll in more than one clinic (including in-house clinical programs, partnership programs, externship clinics, and individual externships) during the same academic term. With permission of both instructors, a student may participate in Advanced Clinic Fieldwork in one clinic while enrolled in another clinic.
An individual externship has no classroom component. Individual externs report to faculty supervisors on a periodic basis established by agreement of the student and faculty member. In an externship clinic, students perform work at a field placement, but are also required to attend a regularly scheduled class associated with the externship, and for which additional credit may be awarded. Externship clinics are courses for which students must enroll through the regular course selection process. In contrast, students enroll in an individual externship via the process described below.
An externship provides students with the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of substantive law and lawyering skills through hands-on experiences, and to apply what they have learned in the law school classroom to real world legal problems. Individual externships allow students to gain experience in a particular area of law or practice setting of interest to them, discover their strengths and preferences within the legal profession, address areas in which they might need additional training, and consider the professional, ethical and moral implications of the practice of law.
Students interested in doing an individual externship should first determine their goals. They should ask themselves: What kind of experience do I want to obtain? What areas of law or practice settings would I like to explore? What lawyering skills would I like to develop or hone? Am I looking to build on experiences that I already have, or try something completely different? How closely do I want my externship experience to mirror the kind of career I hope to have?
Students should then look for experiences that will fulfill their goals. There are several ways to do this.
- Meet with the Externship Director. The Externship Director can help students identify and create opportunities that will further their goals. The Externship Director can suggest possibilities that students may not have considered, or help students find an opportunity that they may not have known existed. The Externship Director can also advise students about other students’ experiences with particular field placements.
- Review the postings on Symplicity. Some internship positions posted on Symplicity may be appropriate field placements for individual externships. Students should check with the Externship Director if they find a posting that they want to pursue as an externship.
- Research other possible externship options. Students may talk to friends, colleagues and faculty members about the kind of work they would like to do. They may do research on the internet or in the Career Planning Center to find out what legal organizations in the area would offer the kind of experience they are looking for. If a student reaches out to a potential placement, the student must ensure that he or she will be supervised by an attorney who will provide appropriate work assignments and give guidance and feedback on them, and that there is a workspace for him or her on the premises of the placement. Once a student has identified a potential placement, he or she must notify the Externship Director and provide contact information for the responsible attorney at the desired placement. The Externship Director will contact the proposed placement supervisor to explain the supervision and reporting requirements of the externship program, and ensure that the supervisor understands and is willing to comply. All new externship placements must be approved in advance by the Externship Director.
To enroll in an individual externship, a student must submit two forms. The student application form seeks information about the student’s year in law school, number of credits completed and credits sought for the externship. The application also seeks general information about the placement. The approval form seeks information about the placement, the placement and faculty supervisors, and the nature of the work that will be performed. This form must be signed by the faculty and placement supervisors. Both forms must be brought to the Externship Director for approval and signature, and the Externship Director will effectuate enrollment.
In the fall and spring semesters, externship applications are due by the end of the second week of class of the term in which the externship is being done. Late applications may be accepted for good cause shown; however, credit for work done prior to the submission of the completed application may not be counted towards the required hours. It is advisable to submit the externship applications as soon as possible, as they will not be forwarded to the Registrar for enrollment if there is any information missing.
Summer term enrollment is flexible. Students may begin externships at the opening of the June Term, or later in June, or even July. Again, however, students must submit all required enrollment applications prior to beginning work at their field placement, or they risk not having their work hours count toward the credits that they are seeking.
The individual externship program requires that every student have a faculty supervisor who is a member of the full-time faculty. The faculty supervisor must approve the student’s application to enroll in an externship.
Most students ask faculty members with whom they are most familiar, either from a class, activity or organization. Faculty supervisors do not have to have expertise in the area of law on which the externship focuses. However, some students will choose faculty members who do specialize in legal issues students expect to encounter in the externship. Those faculty members may be in a position to offer subject matter insight and guidance. There are also some faculty members who are associated with certain externship experiences. This is particularly true in areas like Tax, IP and Insurance. The Externship Director can advise students if there are faculty members that tend to oversee externships at certain organizations or involving certain areas of law.
The placement supervisor is responsible for providing the extern with varied, interesting and challenging work, incorporating the extern into the day-to-day operations of the field placement, offering opportunities to observe and participate in legal activities, and giving the extern guidance on work assignments and constructive feedback throughout the course of the work experience. The placement supervisor is also responsible for completing a final evaluation of the student’s work performance.
The faculty supervisor is responsible to ensuring that the student has an educational experience in addition to a work experience. The faculty supervisor meets periodically with the student throughout the term of the externship, and reviews and discusses with the student the reflective journal that the student will be maintaining during the externship. The faculty supervisor is also responsible for completing a final evaluation of the student extern’s learning experience.
Students must keep a log of the dates and hours when they are working. The log should include a brief description of the tasks being undertaken. Each week, the student must upload the prior week’s log onto a TWEN site maintained for this purpose. No credit will be given for work hours that are not reflected on the logs uploaded to the TWEN site.
In addition to preparing weekly logs, all students enrolled in an individual externship are required to maintain a reflective journal. Journal entries must be submitted to the Externship Director and faculty supervisor at least four times at regular intervals during the semester or term of the externship. The dates by which the students should submit each journal entry and the frequency of the journal submissions are to be agreed upon by the faculty supervisor and the student. Some faculty supervisors may ask the student to submit a page of journal entries per week, while others may ask for journals every two to three weeks, or by specific dates in the semester. In all, students should expect to write about 12-14 pages of journal entries during the course of the externship. The purpose of the journal is not to recount the student’s projects or experiences at the field placement. That information should be contained in the student’s weekly log. Rather, the journal asks the student to reflect on what the student is learning in the placement – about the law, the practice setting in which the student is externing, the legal profession, or him or herself. Topics for journal entries may be suggested by the faculty supervisor or selected by the student. A non-exhaustive list of possible topics for the externship journal is posted on the Individual Externships TWEN site.
A student may earn up to 3 credits for an individual externship during the fall or spring terms. During the summer term, students may earn up to 4 credits. Although there are some externship opportunities limited enough in scope to warrant only 1 credit, most students enroll in externships for 2, 3 or (in the summer) 4 credits. A credit is earned for every 56 hours of externship work performed. Therefore, for 3 credits, a student must work 168 hours over the term. For a 14-week term, this equals 12 hours per week.
The actual schedule of hours is set by the student and the placement supervisor, and the weekly hours may vary based on the student’s work assignments and the opportunity to observe or participate in activities at the worksite. While students may complete the required amount of work in one long day, students are encouraged to spend at least two part days at their worksite. This enables them to become more integrated into the office structure and allow for more time for observation of all types of legal proceedings and meetings. Students may work more than the required hours needed to earn the credits sought; if they work fewer hours, however, credits will be reduced.
Individual externships are graded pass/fail. Students are allowed a total of 12 pass/fail credits during law school. Also, for planning purposes, note that students cannot earn more than 8 credits total for individual externships and SRPs.
At the completion of the externship, the student must submit three completed evaluations to the Externship Director. For efficiency, the following process is recommended: The student should ask the placement supervisor to complete his/her evaluation as soon as the work is completed. Once the placement supervisor has completed his or her application, the student should bring that evaluation, and his or her own evaluation, to the faculty supervisor. The faculty supervisor will review the two evaluations, complete his or her own evaluation, and forward to the Externship Director. Upon confirmation that the student’s logs submitted on TWEN reflect that the student has completed the requisite hours of work for the credits sought, the Externship Director will approve the award of the credits, and notify the Registrar to record the credits on the student’s transcript.
1L students, whether enrolled in the day or evening division, may not participate in the individual externship program during the fall or spring semesters of their first year of law school. 1L students who have completed the fall and spring semester classes may enroll in an individual externship beginning in the June Term, even if they are also taking Moot Court during this term.