Finding a Field Placement

What kind of experience are you looking for?

Know your goals but be flexible in your approach.

Think of your goals as resting on top of a wall made up of blocks.  Each block is a skill or piece of knowledge relevant to the work you want to do and the life you want to lead.  Consider what skills you will need to build.  For example, if you are interested in entertainment law, you will need to become proficient in drafting contracts; if you are interested in international trade, then business experience will be useful; if you want a career in international human rights, then consider experience advocating for women and children.  At the same time, do your research and find out what specific information and experience you need to acquire to be prepared to practice in specific areas of law.  Look for field placements that will allow you to build a strong foundation.
 

Getting Started  -  Talk to the Experts and Update Your Resume

Meet with Career Services Specialists

Counselors in the Office of Career and Professional Development can help you explore the array of possible career choices and introduce you WCL resources. Specialists in public interest law, government law, international relations, and judicial clerkships are available to meet with students. For individual counseling, contact OCPD at 202-274-4090 or schedule an appointment online by clicking here.
 

Update your Resume & Cover Letter

OCPD career counselors also review resumes and cover letters; conduct mock interviews; and assist in planning an effective job search. Review the OCPD's CareerLink Document Library to find samples of cover letters and resumes and make sure you are following the same general format.
 

Externship Program Counseling

Make an appointment with the Externship Program Director to discuss field placement opportunities. Email us at externship@wcl.american.edu to set up an appointment.
 

Specific Information for Upper Level Students

Get help with your resume! As you gain legal experience, meet with OCPD, faculty, alumni and subject matter experts to ensure your resume presents a strong narrative.  No one should write their resume by themselves! Take the time to reacquaint yourself with WCL resources now that you have a better sense of your goals.
 

Where to look for a field placement

Employer Listings and Databases

The Externship Program Field Placement Database is a directory of employers that have hired WCL students for externships. There are well over 1000 organizations listed and it is searchable by practice area and keyword. Many employers do not contact the law school when they are hiring each semester, so searching only through CareerLink will sharply limit the number of employers to whom you might consider applying. Employers listed in the Externship Database include: Government agencies (local, state, and federal); Not-for-profit organizations (including public interest organizations, lobbying groups, trade associations; Courts and judicial institutions (including administrative tribunals; and local, state, and federal courts)
 

Career Link and Posted Listings

WCL’s primary resource for government internships and post-graduate opportunities is CareerLink. Employers and faculty frequently contact OCPD directly about vacancies and specific hiring needs that may not be publicized elsewhere. All programs throughout the law school, including the Externship Office, will inform OCPD of any openings and OCPD posts them on CareerLink.  Search for positions under the "Jobs & Resume Collection" tab.
 

OCPD Listserv

One of the most effective ways to take advantage of CareerLink is to sign up for list serve notifications of new listings for specific types of legal positions.  Subscribers receive weekly updates on upcoming application deadlines and events.
 

Externship/Career Fairs

The annual Spring Externship Fair is a WCL-exclusive event hosting employers from over 150 organizations, who are seeking WCL students from internships and externships. This is an amazing opportunity created for all students to network, apply for internships and externships, informally interview with employers, and explore many organizations and practice areas in one place. Many of the organizations in attendance are represented by WCL alumni. All students should plan on attending regardless of your intention to find a Summer internship or externship. A directory of the registered employers will be available in early January on the Externship Program MyWCL page.
 
The Externship Program also hosts several Mini Externship Fairs in the Fall exclusively for upper-level students (2Ls, 3Ls, 4Ls, and LLMs). Because of the more intimate setting, these Fairs provide upper-level students with an opportunity to sit down, have a conversation, and establish a personal connection with employers. The Mini Externship Fairs are generally broken down into the following practice areas:
 
  • Business, Finance, Tax, Health, Intellectual Property, and Communications and Media Law;
  • Criminal Law: Prosecution & Defense; and,
  • Labor, Employment, Immigration, Family, Gender, and Education Law.
The Externship Fairs are a crucial component not only for finding an internship or externship, but also for developing your professional contacts and networking skills.
 
Additional Fairs outside of WCL: Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair takes place in October and the DC/Baltimore Public Service Recruitment Fair (seven law school participate in this multi- school fair) takes place in late January.
 

Networking

Networking is an important aspect of developing professional contacts and building relationships. It can help you obtain an externship that may turn into a job post-graduation.  The key to success: Ask others for help and help others.  Almost everyone finds this daunting but you will improve with practice. OCPD has many resources to help you build this skill. If you want to find internships and externships that really meet your goals, you need to get out there and meet people. 
 

Mentor Database

Over 500 WCL alumni have offered to provide career guidance to WCL students.  The WCL Alumni Mentor Database enables students to contact WCL graduates for the purposes of networking, seeking general career advice, and informational interviews. This is an amazing resource.
 

WCL Events

Every day there are incredible events taking place at the law school. Attending these events and introducing yourself to panelists and attendees is a very effective way of meeting people who work in your field. Peruse the WCL website to learn more about specific programs.
 

LinkedIn

There are over 17,000 thousand WCL connections on LinkedIn. From the search box, you can open the button for schools.  Students report that the alumni are very open to their outreach efforts.
 

Bar Associations

Many bar associations offer free or discounted membership to students, allowing you to attend events and take on leadership positions.  The ABA offers free memberships in all of their sections (IP, public immigration, criminal law, etc.) for great networking opportunities, events and access to job-search resources.
 
 

Focusing on Specific Areas of Practice

WCL Faculty Practice Groups and Specialized Programs

The Washington College of Law has tremendous resources available to students through our own programs and curriculum. If you have an idea of the areas of law in which you might like to practice, take advantage of the terrific WCL resources focused on those areas of law.
 
WCL focuses on the following practice areas:
 
  • Arbitration & Dispute Resolution;
  • Business Law,
  • Communications Law,
  • Constitutional Law,
  • Corporate Compliance,
  • Governance & Ethics,
  • Criminal Justice,
  • Environmental & Energy Law,
  • Immigration Law, Intellectual Property,
  • International & Comparative Law,
  • International & Investment Law,
  • Law & Government,
  • Litigation &  Trial Advocacy,
  • Public Interest Law,
  • Technology Law
Click here for information on WCL Initiatives and Programs, Faculty and Curriculum and Student Activities in each practice area.
 
Attending events offered through these programs, getting to know faculty members, and joining student groups and briefs are all great ways to learn about opportunities in the areas of law you think you might want to practice. 
 

Public Interest Law

Office of Public Interest (OPI)

The Office of Public Interest offers valuable resources for students who are seeking public interest opportunities, some of which can be turned into externships. Sign up to receive the OPI Informer: this is a weekly newsletter from OPI that includes information for students and alumni about public interest events, internship postings, pro bono opportunities, and more.
 

Public Service Jobs Directory - PSJD

PSJD contains job postings and resources for public service job seekers. The Resource Center has specific resources pertaining to government careers, international careers, and post-graduate fellowships.
 

Government Externships

Government Honors & Internship Handbook

Contains hiring information and tracks deadlines for federal (and some state and local) agencies. This resource is a fairly comprehensive guide to internships and post-graduate government opportunities nationwide, but be sure to verify application information on the agency’s website. You will need your AU log-in information to access the Handbook using the link above.
 

USAJOBS

Attorney positions are considered “Excepted Service,” and agencies are not required to post attorney vacancies on this site. As a result, most legal internships and post-graduate opportunities are not posted on USAJOBS. Set up an email alert to monitor opportunities, but utilize the other resources on this list as well.
 

U.S. Department of Justice -Legal Careers Website

Provides deadline and application information for DOJ’s internships and externships. post-graduate/entry-level, and experienced attorney positions. To learn more about the different offices of DOJ, review the “Choose Justice: Guide to DOJ”.
 

Government Agencies by Practice Area

If you are interested in a particular area of the law and want to see which agencies have attorneys practicing in that area, the following resources will be useful: 1) the DOJ Practice Areas Chart; 2) OCPD’s Federal Agencies by Practice Area; 3) WCL’s Externship Database; and 4) the Washington Information Directory.
 

Capitol Hill and Policy Resources

The Public Policy Handbook has deadline and application information for internships and post-graduate policy positions with government and non-profit organizations nationwide. You will need your AU log-in information to access the Handbook.
 
The Tom Manatos and Brad Traverse Group listservs publish internship and post-graduate job opportunities on the Hill. OCPD subscribes to the Tom Manatos listserv, and you can access it here. The Brad Traverse Group charges $5 per month.
 
Additional job search resources are available on CareerLink.