Externship Policy , Procedure and Requirements
General Policy Statement
- The Southern University Law Center (hereinafter “SULC” or “Law Center”) will offer academic credit for legal externship opportunities to its 2L and 3L students through the Experiential Learning Program in connection with it juris doctor degree.
- Legal externships specifically refer to monitored legal and law-related work experiences (which have core educational components) in which the placement is outside of the law school (versus working in an in-house clinic or as part of a lab with a faculty member).
- Externship opportunities are offered in federal, state, and local, administrative governmental agencies, departments, legislatures, and courts, as well as private sector employers.
- In connection with this offering, this Externship Policy and Procedure (hereinafter “policy”) is hereby adopted.
- Externship opportunities can be either paid or unpaid.
- The goal of the externship program is to further the legal development of SULC students in their critical and analytical understanding of the legal process, legal problem-solving, critical thinking, and legal professionalism and ethics.
- In externships, students get real-world experience. They seek to achieve intentional learning goals, reflecting actively on what is learned throughout their experience under the guidance of both a Supervising Attorney in the field and the Director of Externships and Experiential Learning and Pro Bono Activities (hereinafter “Director”).
- Each externship placement is subject to the prior approval of the Director, whether the externship originates with the Director or is proposed by the student.
- All approved externships require the student to participate in an academic seminar, taught by the Director or designee, which compliments the work done during the externship.
- The student’s performance in the field placement work will be assessed by the Supervising Attorney, who has been approved as such by the Director.
- Prior to finalization, any determination on the amount of academic credit for an externship opportunity beyond the General Externship Program must be approved by the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.
Commencement of Procedure
A student must start the process of being placed in an externship by submitting an application to the Director of Externships and Experiential Programs by the following dates:
Fall Externship: June 15
Spring Externship: November 15
Summer Externship: April 15
A student must submit a completed application of the Externship application for an Externship
A student applying for an externship must have taken and passed Professional Responsibility (with a “C-“or higher) prior to applying for the externship.
- The application for an externship opportunity shall indicate whether the student is: 1) applying for the Law Center’s General Externship Opportunity program, 2) proposing a new externship opportunity, 3) seeking externship work placement with a Supervising Attorney that is not a part of the General Externship program, or 4) applying for the Texas Legislative Internship Program (TLIP).
General Externship Program
The Law Center’s General Externship Opportunity program attempts to provide students with work placement opportunities with employers who have a previously established externship program with the Law Center. These externships are generally limited to three (3) hours of academic credit. The field work of the students participating in the general program will be supervised by an attorney who has been approved by the Law Center (approval took place when employer originally established the externship relationship with the Law Center). The field work of the students participating in the general program will be limited to 9 to 10 hours of work per week during the academic semester for a three (3) hour externship. Students will also be required to participate in a one (1) hour credit seminar. Depending on the employer, an additional application or interview may be required before a student is selected for an externship opportunity in the general program.
New Externship Opportunity
A student may seek to participate in an externship with an employer who is not a participant in the Law Center’s General Externship Opportunity program. In such cases, the student must identify the employer, have the employer submit a Supervising Attorney application, indicate the number of hours for which the student is seeking academic credit for the externship, along with the other items required to be submitted with the application. The Director will assess and conclude whether the application should be approved, whether the attorney should be approved to work in the externship program, and the number of credit hours to be earned for the externship opportunity based on the criteria contained within this policy. The nature and amount of field work will be the essential factors in determining the amount of academic credit to be assigned to the externship opportunity sought by the student. The student will also be required to participate in a one (1) hour credit seminar.
Seeking Work Placement with Supervising Attorney
A student may seek an externship opportunity outside of the General Externship Opportunity program by requesting to be placed with a Supervising Attorney who has contacted the Law Center seeking students to serve as externs. In such cases, the application can be approved only if there are Supervising Attorneys with externship opportunities available pursuant to this policy. The Director shall assess the skills and abilities of the student in light of the nature of the field work with the Supervising Attorney in making a decision to place the student with the Supervising Attorney for the externship opportunity. The nature and amount of field work will be the essential factors in determining the amount of academic credit to be assigned to the externship opportunity sought by the student. The student will also be required to participate in a one (1) hour credit seminar.
Texas Legislative Internship Program
The Texas Legislative Internship Program (TLIP) is a special externship/experiential learning opportunity available to students of the Law Center. A student applying for an externship opportunity under TLIP will earn twelve (12) credit hours pursuant to the rules and procedures of the Law Center’s TLIP policy.
Other Requirements of Externship Program
- Students must maintain journal and timesheets and present the same to the Director for approval at least once per month.
- Student and the Supervising Attorney must sign a “Field Placement Agreement” prior to the commencement of the externship which will identify the specific work to be performed, the learning goals of the externship opportunity, and the duties of both the student and attorney. To be clear, this agreement will be completed in phases and with the consultation of the Director. For example, the Supervising Attorney can clearly identify the specific work that is to be performed by the extern; however, the learning goals can only be identified after consultation with the Director.
- The Supervising Attorney is required to submit an Evaluation Form to the Director at the conclusion of the externship opportunity for each student under his or her supervision.
- Students will receive a pass/fail grade from the Supervising Attorney after the successful completion of the externship opportunity.
Credit Allocation Relationship to Amount of Field Placement Work
- 3 Credit Hour Externship: 20 hours of field placement work per week
- 6 Credit Hour Externship: 40 hours of field placement work per week
- 9 Credit Hour Externship: 60 hours of field placement work per week
- 12 Credit Hour Externship: 120 hours of field placement work per week
Field Placement Work Requirements
- Must be monitored/supervised by a Supervising Attorney approved by the Director;
- Students should perform legal work during the externship;
- Communicate the value of the task a student has been given so that the student can understand where the task fits in the larger picture of the work of the office and so the student can do his or her best work.
- Students should be given legal research and writing assignments;
- Students should also be given opportunities to observe the Supervising Attorney and other lawyers in the office in the full panoply of lawyering tasks that take place in the office, to include, but not limited to:
- Client interviewing and counseling
- Witness interviewing and preparation
- Fact investigation
- Case strategy discussions
- Meetings with co-counsel
- Negotiations with opposing counsel
- Legislative hearings/testimonies
- Preparation of discovery questions
- Responding to discovery questions
- In-chambers discussions or staff meetings
- Legal hearings or trials
- Students work should not consist of more than 10% of administrative or clerical duties;
- Students should never be asked to run personal errands or perform menial tasks.
- The participating students and Director, or designee, will meet once a week or at the professor’s discretion for a one (1) hour academic seminar. These meetings can take place in person or via telephone conference, webcam, or video conferencing.
- Student externs will submit weekly journal entries for review and discussion. Journal entries will contain daily logs of externship activities, legal exposure, and process, development of legal and analytical skills, as well as student reflections concerning the impact of this exposure on them and their reactions or concerns.
- Class discussions will focus on the following:
- General nature of legal work and specifically what the student’s work entails;
- Assessment or review of the work products created by the student;
- The students’ achievable learning goals, both general and specific;
- What learning goals are not realistically achievable and why and whether they're a disadvantage in the learning experience based on the unachievable goal; and
- Application and connection of theoretical learning to the clinical experience.
- Development of a Professional Identity – assuming the lawyer’s role, exercising professional responsibility for clients/organization; exercising professional responsibility in a complex workplace; integrating personal and professional identities; and observing and critiquing the nature of legal practice.
- Developing a Contextual Understanding of Client’s Legal Problems – understanding the way legal problems arise and are experienced by clients, understanding the clients' context, and seeing through another’s eyes.
- Developing a Critical Understanding of Legal Process – understanding facts and their uncertainty, understanding law and its ongoing development through lawyering and interpretation, and examining the law’s role in creating justice and injustice.
- Developing Capacity to Think as a Lawyer – narrative thinking, strategic thinking, contextual thinking, critical thinking, building and applying theory, and developing self-awareness.
- Developing Capacity to Act as a Lawyer – exercising judgment, problem-solving, using the law as an advocacy tool, building advocacy skills, identifying and naming skills, synthesizing and managing information, developing facts, forming clients relationships, collaborating and relating to others, and assessing and evaluation lawyering mindsets and styles.
- Developing Capacity to Learn as a Lawyer – setting learning goals, reflecting on experiences, identifying lessons from and meanings of experiences, developing habits of learning, understanding one’s learning process, and transferring skills to new contexts.
- Final journal submissions shall contain a detailed statement of the student extern’s self-assessment of his or her developmental skills and insight as they relate to the externship opportunity based on the developmental phases listed above.
- Final journal submissions shall contain weekly time sheet submissions for the duration of the externship signed by both the student extern and the field supervisor.
- Final journal submissions shall contain copies of all legal work performed, including research and analysis, motions, pleadings, legal opinions, memorandums, work-related faxes, and emails, etc. If the material is confidential, a signed Statement of Confidentiality from the externship placement is required specifying the exclusion of this documentation.
- Student Extern Evaluation Form will be sent to the Supervising Attorney for review and assessment of extern’s performance. This shall be returned to the Externship Supervisor through fax, mail or email and shall be sent directly from the field supervisor or the supervisor’s designated representative.
Development of Professional Relationships With:
Developing Problem Solving Skills:
- Legal analysis and reasoning
- Issue spotting
- Generating alternatives
- Knowledge of facts and law
- Research of applicable law and cases
- Developing legal theory and strategy of the case
- Planning and execution
Developing Professional Identity and Independent Learning:
- Taking initiative
- Learning from experience
- Contributing to other growth
- Self-reflection and evaluation
- Developing independence
- Drafting of legal documents/correspondence
Developing Ethical Practice Skills:
- Identifying and following issues and rules
- Engaging in proper communication
- Engaging in a proper performance
Organizing and Managing Legal Work
- Case monitoring
- File maintenance
- Office procedures
- Time management
Supervising Attorney Requirements
- The Supervising Attorney must submit a Supervising Attorney application and have that application approved by the Director before a student can serve in an externship under the supervision of the Supervising Attorney.
- The licensed attorney applying to serve as a Supervising Attorney must have a minimum of five (5) years of legal practice experience.
- The Supervising Attorney must identify the specific duties of the student and, after consultation with the Director, determine the learning goals that can be achieved during the externship opportunity and assist the student to realize those goals by providing practical, hands-on legal experience in a real-world work environment.
- The Supervising Attorney should ensure the experience for the student is educational and offer plenty of constructive feedback.
- The Supervising Attorney should integrate externs into their offices as much as possible and commit to engaging with them on a regular basis.
- Specifically, the Supervising Attorney must do the following:
- Supervise the field work performed by the student;
- Offer the student plenty of constructive feedback throughout the semester;
- Complete and sign a “Field Placement Agreement” – along with the student – prior to the commencement of the externship which outlines the nature and type of fieldwork that will actually be performed by the student and the learning goals to be achieved by the student during the externship;
- Limit administrative and clerical duties to no more than 10 percent of the extern’s workload during the externship; and
- Submit an Evaluation Form to the Director at the conclusion of the externship for each student under his or her supervision
Paid Externships – Extra Obligations
In 2016, the American Bar Association authorized additional standards regarding externships. Specifically, the ABA permitted students to receive both academic credit and compensation for an externship. Therefore, the Law Center has amended its policies to allow a student who is working in an externship to receive both academic credit and compensation for that externship simultaneously.
The Law Center does not make a determination on whether an externship opportunity will result in compensation for a student. Such a decision is solely in the discretion of the employer. In such cases, the Law Center will simply determine whether academic credit will also be awarded. If a student is interested in seeking both compensation and academic credit for an externship, please be aware of the following:
- An externship is considered paid if any sort of financial compensation is received by the extern while the extern also receives academic credit. Such financial compensation can come in many different forms, including, but not limited to an hourly/weekly/monthly wage, stipend, fellowship, or grant. Such financial compensation can be provided by the field placement OR another outside source. The Law Center does not provide any payment for externships.
- A student seeking a paid externship under this policy is required to meet with the Director to discuss and obtain approval of the request for a paid externship.
- Regardless of whether the externship opportunity is paid, both the student and the Supervising Attorney must still agree to abide by all of the requirements, rules, and regulations surrounding externships as discussed in this policy.
- The Director will need to communicate with the Supervising Attorney about the paid externship prior to approval of the externship. If the Supervising Attorney is new to our system, a Supervising Attorney application is required, as it is for all new supervisors regardless of pay status of the externship.
- Students seeking credit for work with a current employer may be eligible to receive both pay and credit for an externship with the same employer. A memo describing the increased educational value of the experience and how the work will be substantially different from the work the student is already engaged in as an employee is required. This must be submitted by the Supervising Attorney, not the student, to the Director during the semester prior to the student’s externship and in advance of the stated externship deadlines. Work might be considered substantially different, for example, if it includes different projects or a new supervisor or if it involves work in a different division of the office. Evening division students and students who are employed part-time in legal offices may fall into this category of students.
- If an opportunity to receive payment presents itself during the semester in which a student is enrolled for an externship for credit through SULC (as opposed to during the pre-enrollment process), then the student must contact the Director to discuss whether he or she is able to adjust the externship so that it can become a paid externship.