Supervised Externship Program
The Externship Program at American University, Washington College of Law provides over 350 students a year with the opportunity to gain practical, hand-on legal experience with government agencies, public interest organizations, courts and law firms engaged in pro bono work. The law school’s location in Washington, D.C., and its proximity to governmental and non-governmental organizations ensures that the Externship Program can provide students with a wide variety of exciting and valuable work experiences. WCL also offers externship across the United States and abroad.
Externs earn academic credit for substantive legal work that might include drafting briefs, researching legal issues, conducting client interviews, engaging in trial preparation and drafting regulatory policies.
Students' field experiences provide the "text" for critical analysis in Supervised Externship Seminars taught by WCL faculty allowing them to engage in critical reflection about the legal profession, their legal careers, and their priorities and values as lawyers. The pedagogical goals for the Externship Program are at https://www.wcl.american.edu/externship/pedagogical.cfm.
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Among the many advantages of studying law in Washington, D.C. is the opportunity to integrate practical experience with the theory of the classroom. The WCL Externship Program provides students the opportunity to receive academic credit for substantive legal work and to reflect on their experience through seminars conducted by a broad cross-section of WCL full time and adjunct faculty.
During their study at WCL, students can earn a maximum of six credits for field placements and six credits for seminar/supervision. Students must enroll in one seminar credit AND one field credit every time they extern.
Through the program, students find innumerable opportunities to gain valuable on-the-job experience by participating in fieldwork placements within any:
- federal, state or local government agency,
- federal, state, or administrative court/tribunal
- not-for-profit organization, or,
- law firm, only if they are assigned exclusively to pro bono projects
To maximize the learning opportunity of the fieldwork, students must be supervised by an attorney and must be engaged in substantive legal work. The sponsoring organization must agree to offer students the educational experience and work assignments they would receive as a beginning lawyer at that organization. To optimize the experience, students must work on site and may not work remotely.
The Honorable Stephanie Duncan-Peters meets with her extern
The Externship Program enables students to explore various career options and other facets of becoming a lawyer, providing direction and insight for their postgraduate legal careers. The fieldwork experience is enhanced by the close supervision they receive from our faculty members by enrolling in one of a wide variety of externship seminars. Externship students must enroll in an externship seminar at WCL in conjunction with their fieldwork. The seminars are taught by full-time faculty and adjunct faculty who are leading practitioners in their respective fields. These seminars provide the forum for analysis of the fieldwork experiences through class discussion, reflective writing, and small group meetings.