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General Information

Field placements and field placement supervisors are, of course, the linchpin of the Externship Program. Externships afford our students a tremendous opportunity to develop their legal skills, receive invaluable mentoring, consider a wide variety of career opportunities, and work on issues that are important to them personally and professionally. Our field placement supervisors receive high quality unpaid legal assistance from enthusiastic students who are eager to take on challenging work assignments.

How is an externship different from an internship?

The term “externship” is used to describe an academic program through which students earn credit for unpaid legal work outside of the law school.  An “internship” might include any type of work experience while an externship must meet requirements set by the ABA and the law school. Externships provide our students a tremendous opportunity to develop their legal skills, receive invaluable mentoring, consider a wide variety of career opportunities, and work on issues that are important to them personally and professionally. Our students must participate in related seminars and/or close faculty supervision. Students must commit to working between 10 and 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring semesters and may work full time during the Summer semester. There are two components to an externship: the seminar and the field placement.

What qualifies as an Externship field placement?

The following requirements must be met in order for an organization to be considered for a field placement:

  • It must be a not-for-profit organization;
  • A federal, state, or local government agency;
  • A federal, state, or administrative court/tribunal; or
  • A law firm, only if the student is assigned exclusively to pro bono projects.

Additionally, the position must:

  • Be unpaid
  • Entail substantive, law-related work
  • Be supervised by a licensed attorney
  • Provide adequate workspace for students to work on site. Working remotely is not permitted.

When can law firms qualify as field placements?

For-profit law firms will be approved for field placement only if the student is assigned exclusively to pro bono matters. Firms may not charge for students’ time.

What are my responsibilities as an Attorney Supervisor?

To ensure that the students’ educational goals are being achieved in the field placement, the field placement must agree to the following:

  1. Externs will be provided with substantial legal experience that is reasonably similar to the experience of a lawyer advising or representing a client; the extern will not be assigned non-legal or clerical activities.
  2. The extern will be directly supervised by a licensed attorney who is employed by the field placement.
  3. The extern and the Supervising Attorney will work on-site.
  4. The Supervising Attorney will assign multiple opportunities for performance and will provide regular feedback and opportunities for self-evaluation.
  5. The extern and the Supervising Attorney will meet at least weekly.
  6. The extern will have opportunities to observe legal practice and to discuss these observations with supervisors and other staff members.
  7. At the start of the externship, externs will receive an orientation, including a discussion of office procedures, and confidentiality, and will be given adequate work space.
  8. Within the first two week of the externship, attorney supervisors will meet with the extern to discuss the extern’s goals (learning outcomes) and the attorney’s expectations, and will develop a work plan for the semester.
  9. At mid-semester, the attorney supervisor will meet with the extern to review the student’s self-assessment and discuss the extern’s progress toward meeting the goals developed during the initial meeting.
  10. Attorney Supervisors will provide faculty and externs with a written final evaluation of the student’s work product and conduct in the work place and will provide the law school with confirmation of the extern’s hours.

How many credits do students receive for their fieldwork?

The number of credits students receive for their fieldwork depends on the total number of hours the students work at the field placement throughout the semester. Below is a table breaking down the total number of hours required to work for credit.

Fall & Spring Semesters

Number of Credits

Total Number of Hours Required to Work

Estimate of Hours Worked Per Week

1

130 hours total

10 hours/week for 13 weeks

2

195 hours total

15 hours/week for 13 weeks

3

260 hours total

20 hours/week for 13 weeks

 

Summer Semester

Number of Credits

Total Number of Hours Required to Work

Estimate of Hours Worked Per Week

1

130 hours total

15 hours/week for 9 weeks

2

195 hours total

22 hours/week for 9 weeks

3

260 hours total

29 hours/week for 9 weeks

How can I host externs at my organization?

Our Externship Opportunities Database is available to all students seeking externship opportunities. Students view the database to locate jobs that suit their interest and specialty areas, and will then contact you for general questions, application information, and to arrange an interview. You may view your listing at any time. If you do not know the password, please email our office at externship@wcl.american.edu and we will send it to you.

What if my organization is new to the Externship Program and does not have an existing listing in the Externship Database?

If you are new to the Externship Program, and are interested in participating, please create a profile for your organization in our on-line database. It is imperative that your organization is correctly listed in our database to ensure that students have the opportunity to apply for externship positions.

How do I advertise to students that my organization is hosting externs?

We welcome notification of new or existing positions with your organization at any time of the year. To ensure your organization secures externship applications from Washington College of Law students on a regular basis, we offer the following suggestions:

  • List your organization in the Externship Database
  • Email the Externship Program at externship@wcl.american.edu to publicize opportunities with your organization
    • For Spring semester externs, contact our office in mid-October and we will announce that the position is available.
    • For Fall & Summer semester externs, contact our office in late March. Check in with us again in early August. We will publicize the position each time.
  • Ask your current extern(s) to recommend your placement(s) to friends.
  • Attend our annual Externship Fair or our Specialty Mini Externship Fairs.
  • Periodically check your listing in the Externship Database, in order to ensure that our information is current (in particular, check your contact information – email addresses and telephone numbers). If you do not have the password, please contact our office at externship@wcl.american.edu.

What do I do if I have concerns regarding an extern's performance?

Students participating in externships are closely supervised by faculty. If the matter cannot be resolved between you and the student, the faculty supervisor is available at any time to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. You should report significant issues regarding the extern’s performance to the faculty supervisor and/or the Externship Program Director.

Policy on Discrimination & Sexual Harassment

The American University Washington College of Law requires that organizations who wish to participate in the Externship Program not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability. We also require that field placements maintain a policy against sexual harassment. By participating in the Externship Program, field placements are deemed to agree with this policy. By participating in the Externship Program, field placements are deemed to agree with this policy.