HOW TO FIND AN EXTERNSHIP (OR INTERNSHIP)
Determine the Type of Externship You Want: Before thinking about specific field placements, you should think about what kind of experience you are looking for:
- What area of substantive law do you want to explore? Immigration, Business? Health Law? If you do not have a particular substantive area in mind, think about which courses you have taken that were intersting and what about them interested you.
- What kind of experience or skills do you want to gain or improve? Some externships offer primarily research and writing experience; others involve interviewing/intake and direct services; still others may offer the opportunity to work in a policy area. Keep in mind that the actual tasks involved in the externship are at least as important as the substantive area. For example, if you are interested in having client contact and working in the immigration law area, you will probably be disappointed with an externship at an immigration policy organization.
Tools for Locating an Externship
- Externship Database
--The WCL Externship Program Database offers information about over 1000 field placements that have hired WCL students in the past or that have specifically requested that their information be posted.
The databse includes:
- Government agencies-local, state, federal
- Not-for-profit organizations (including public interest organizations, lobbying groups, trade associations)
- Courts and judicial institutionts - including administrative tribunals, local, state and federal courts
- law firms engaged in probono work
Simply because a field placement is listed in the database does not mean that approval will be guaranteed; each field placement must agree to meet Externship Program requirements each time a student externs.
To most effectively search the database:
- Limit your search to one keyword at a time;
- Do not limit your search by location unless you are looking outside of the DC area;
- Do not worry about whether students have externed recently; many field placements hire interns rather than externs so it appears that they have not hired any students;
- Review the qualifications carefully. Do not decide for the organization that you are not qualified for a position unless you see that there are specific qualifications that you do not meet.
The Externship Database is not the same as the Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) Symplicity Database. Students should not limit themselves to just searching on Symplicity even though it contains recently listed postings. Most organizations do not post each time they have an opening. Limiting yourself to applying to organizations that have posted current openings will cause you to miss most of the available externships. Organizations that have hired WCL students in the past are most likely to hire them again. Use both databases to find placements.
Students who plan to work for law firms engaged in pro bono work that are not already listed in the Externship Database must speak with a member of the Externship Program staff, prior to requesting approval.
- Practice Area Lists -- The Externship Program has developed lists of externship field placements by practice area. Current practice area lists include Business & Finance, Immigration, Gender and Family, Health, Intellectual Property, Labor and Employment, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Juvenile Justice, Disability and Tax. These Practice Area Lists are available in a display outside room 413 as well as in the Externship Program's MyWCL page.
- Externship Fair --In January, the Externship Program hosts an Externship Fair, held at the Washington College of Law. Representatives from over 100 organizations and agencies generally attend. Students have the opportunity to speak with attorneys and to obtain information about the organizations and the externships available. Most field placements will accept resumes at the Fair.
- Posted Listings -- Look at our MyWCL page, Externship Twitter account and bulletin boards ourtside room 413 ) for new listings and employers who are currently searching for externs.
- Counseling --Make an appointment with the Externship Program Director to discuss field placement opportunities. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
- Design Your Own Externship -- Rather than selecting from externships used by the law school in the past, you are also free to design your own field placement, if it fits our program criteria. You can use outside resources, other databases like OCPD Simplicity and USAJobs, organization listservs and personal contacts to find an internship that you can turn into an externship. To find extensive information about government agencies and other legal organizations in Washington DC, use the “Leadership Director” available through the Pence Law Library Resources A-Z. This provides voluminous information including contacts email addresses and phone numbers.
- Meet with Career Services Specialists -- in the Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD), WCL career counselors are available for students who want to consider how to most effectively take advantage of an externship to assist them in meeting their long-term career goals. In addition, 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.
- Public Interest Resources -- the Office of Public Interest offers valuable resources for students who are seeking public interest opportunities, some of which can be turned into externships:
- OPI Informer - Each week, the American University Washington College of Law Office of Public Interest sends a digest called The OPI Informer (formerly PIE) that includes information for students and alumni about public interest events, internship postings, pro bono opportunities, job listings, tips and a student/alumni spotlight. Only one email is sent each week.
- Pro Bono Blog - On this blog, the Office of Public Interest lists all of the pro bono activities that have been published through the public interest listserv.
- Review Evaluations -- After reviewing the database listings, peruse the field placement evaluations, available in the Externship office, room 413. These evaluations, written by WCL students, can be quite helpful in providing additional information about the field placements and supervisors.
- Additional Resources/ Articles:
- Professor Walter A. Effross, "Ten Tips for Landing J.D. Jobs for Law Students and Graduates," The National Law Journal (July 16, 2013)
- Resources for Long Distance Placements (outside of the D.C. Metropolitan Area):
- OCPD List of Useful Resources - "1L Jumpstart of Useful Resources & Important Dates"