Frequently Asked Questions
What is an externship and how does it differ from an internship?
An externship is a course in which a student works in a legal placement outside the law school for academic credit. An internship may be a paid or unpaid position with a legal employer in which there is no academic credit awarded to the student.
Why take an externship?
The law school recognizes its obligation to train graduates to be fully prepared to practice law. Externships provide an opportunity to develop lawyering skills through participation in activities such as: legal research and writing, client interviewing and counseling, factual investigation, development and implementation of case theory and strategy, negotiation, mediation, litigation skills and other forms of advocacy.
How do I know which externship placements are available?
Each semester a list of participating externship sites is placed on the clinical programs website and opportunities are posted on Symplicity. Additionally, an informational meeting is held to provide students with an overview of the externship program, a list of participating sites, and guidelines for the application and enrollment process.
How do I know what externship placements I should apply to?
Selecting an externship site is an important process. Please stop in at Career Services and pick up our brochure titled Selecting and Interviewing for Externships. If you have questions about what externship placements would best fit your career and academic goals, please feel free to contact the Career Services Office, Externship Professors Harris Freeman, Myra Orlen, and Jeanne Kaiser, or Clinic Programs Administrator Marie Fletcher. There are also placement surveys available in Career Services that you can view to see how students have evaluated their placements.
When may a student take an externship?
A student must successfuly complete 28 hours of law studies before enrollment in an externship.
How do I apply for an externship placement?
Students apply for externships through Symplicity, the Law School’s online recruitment system. Application materials are forwarded to Externship Site Supervisors after the application deadline date. In most cases externship sites will contact students they wish to interview directly. After reviewing application materials and holding interviews externship sites extend offers directly to students.
What should I do if I don't hear back from the placement to which I have applied?
Although we ask externship sites to make externship selections before students leave campus for vacation, some placements may not always be able to meet our deadlines due to pressing business or personnel changes. Please be patient, but let the Clinical Programs Administrator Marie Fletcher (firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-782-1469) know if you are still waiting to hear. We will be glad to follow up with offices to check on the status of your application.
What do I do after I receive an offer?
Upon acceptance of an offer of an externship, candidates should immediately withdraw from previously scheduled interviews with all other externship sites. Once you have accepted a placement offer you are obligated to honor that commitment. You may not rescind an acceptance in the absence of exceptional circumstances. Candidates should consider the acceptance of an offer a binding obligation. Students must also notify the Clinical Programs Administrator as soon as they have accepted a placement and indicate if they are taking the faculty supervised externship or the externship with concurrent seminar.
What is the difference between the faculty supervised externship and the externship with concurrent seminar?
Under both options, students are required to work 12 hours per week during the semester. The seminar option includes a seminar class and the faculty supervised option includes regular meetings with your faculty advisor. Because students are awarded academic credit for their work, externships are intended to provide more than just a typical work experience. The ABA has promulgated standards applicable to externships. Standard 305 specifically requires that “A field placement program shall include: . . . (7) opportunities for student reflection on their field placement experience, through a seminar, regularly scheduled tutorials, or other means of guided reflection.” To satisfy that requirement, students taking the faculty supervised externship are required to meet with their faculty supervisor at least every other week, complete a conflicts form and a learning agenda, and submit weekly journals and times sheets. Students taking the seminar option are awarded additional credit for their participation in a seminar designed to enrich the externship experience. The class is structured to provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their experiences especially in the areas of professionalism and ethics, practice lawyering skills, and gain additional insight and exposure to the broader legal system in their area of practice. Course requirements include individual meetings with the seminar professor, completing a conflicts form and learning agenda, submitting weekly journals and time sheets, posting comments to a forum in response to guest speakers and assigned readings, and submitting a research and writing assignment. The externship seminar is only offered during the fall and spring semesters.
How do I enroll for an Externship?
If you are enrolling in the Judicial or Law Practice Externship Seminar, you will need to complete an Externship Seminar Enrollment Form (also available in Registrar's Office) which requires the signature of Clinical Programs Administrator Marie Fletcher. If you are enrolling for a Faculty Supervised Externship, you must complete a Faculty Supervised Externship Enrollment Form (also available in the Registrar’s Office). The form must be signed by the field supervisor at the externship site, your faculty supervisor, the Clinical Programs Administrator and the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. The completed form should be returned to the Registrar’s Office.
Please note: The Clinical Programs Administrator must be notified of all externship placements.
How do I find a faculty supervisor?
Any full-time faculty member may be a faculty supervisor for an externship placement. We recommend that you begin your search for a faculty supervisor as soon as you know you want to enroll for the Faculty Supervised Externship. Your faculty supervisor must sign the Faculty Supervised Enrollment Form before you can register for the externship.
We advise students to ask faculty members with whom they are most familiar, either from a class, activity or organization. Faculty supervisors do not have to have expertise in the area of law on which the externship focuses. However, some students may wish to ask faculty members who do specialize in the area of law that relates to the externship placement.
What is the faculty supervisor's role?
The faculty supervisor is responsible for creating a learning environment that ensures that each student meets the educational objectives of the externship while the student gains practical skills experience. The faculty supervisor meets periodically with the student throughout the term of the externship, assists the student in establishing a learning agenda and reviews and discusses with the student the weekly reflective journal that the student maintains throughout the semester.
What is the placement supervisor's role?
The placement supervisor is responsible for introducing the extern to a range of lawyering skills and for fostering their development as reflective practitioners, with a particular focus on professionalism and ethics. The placement supervisor is responsible for incorporating the extern into the day-to-day operations of the field placement, offering opportunities to observe and participate in legal activities, and giving the extern guidance on work assignments and constructive feedback throughout the course of the work experience. The placement supervisor is also responsible for completing a mid-semester and final evaluation of the student’s work performance.
What reporting requirements are there during the externship?
Students must keep a weekly log of the dates and hours they have worked with a brief description of tasks being undertaken as well as a reflective journal. The first entry is due after your first week (complete or partial) of work and each week thereafter until the completion of your externship. The journal and time log should be recorded in one running document that will contain the cumulative record of your externship experience. The most recent journal and time entry should be at the beginning of the document so that by the end of the semester, you will have all your entries in one document, organized with the most recent entry at the beginning. This document should be uploaded weekly onto the designated TWEN site.
The purpose of the journal is not to recount the student’s projects or experiences at the field placement. Rather, the journal asks the student to reflect on what the student is learning in the placement – experiences with the law, lawyers, or legal institutions, and your own learning style, work habits and career aspirations.
Do students enjoy taking Externships?
Students consistently comment that their externship placement was the most valuable experience obtained in law school. The following are a few quotes from externs:
“You cannot learn from a textbook what the externship will teach you.”
“This was easily one of the most rewarding experiences that I had in law school, and I highly recommend it to anyone no matter what type of law they want to practice.”
“I can’t say enough about my externship. It was by far the best experience I had in law school.”
Is an externship a required course?
No, externships are elective and not required for graduation. However, it is highly recommended for practical training.
How are externships graded?
Externships are graded Pass/Fail.
The grade for the seminar externship is based upon:
(a) submission of learning agenda;
(b) submission of conflicts form;
(c) completion of seminar requirements;
(d) submission of required journals and time sheets;
(e) submission of research assignment;
(f) mid-term and final evaluations by the supervising site attorney/judge.
The grade for the faculty supervised externship is based upon:
(a) submission of learning agenda;
(b) submission of conflicts form;
(c) submission of required journals and time sheets;
(d) mid-term and final evaluations by the supervising site attorney/judge.
How many hours are students required to work each week at their field placement?
During the fall and spring semesters students are required to work 12 a week starting with the first week of classes for a total of 168 hours. For a summer placement students must work 24 hours a week for seven weeks for a total of 168 hours.
How do I set up my work schedule?
Once you know your class schedule, you may arrange your work schedule directly with the placement. We recommend that you consult with your supervising attorney as to days/times that it is most advantageous to work. (e.g., when trials, hearing, meetings, conferences, etc. are likely to take place.) It is ideal if you have one or two days each week with no classes or at least several lengthy blocks of time available each week.
May a student withdraw from an externship?
Because externship employers rely on commitments made by students, once a student affirmatively accepts an externship, the student is committed to participate in that externship. Students may not withdraw except under extraordinary circumstances that must be approved by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. A Clinic Withdrawal Form must be completed and submitted for final approval of withdrawal.
Can a student do an externship and a clinic in the same semester?
Due to the time commitment required by both clinics and externships, students may not take a clinic and externship in the same semester.
Exception: Please note that students who are taking the Skills semester of the Legal Service Clinic may take an externship in the same semester.
May I take more than one externship?
During the course of law school, students may take three externships for a maximum of nine academic credits. If a student takes more than one externship, the placements must be substantially different from each other. Students who have already enrolled in an externship must, before applying for a subsequent externship, certify that 1) they have successfully completed any prior externship and 2) any prior externship supervisors have indicated in the final evaluation or other written form that the supervisor would recommend the student for another externship placement.
Are there additional restrictions for the Externship Program that I should be aware of?
Externs may not be directly supervised by a close family member (defined as parents, children, siblings, spouse, and spouse’s parents, children, and siblings). Student’s externing in an office where a family member (including extended family) works must obtain the permission of the Associate Dean for Academic Affaris prior to registering for the externship.
A student enrolling in a first externship must concurrently enroll in the applicable one credit externship seminar. A student may request a waiver of the concurrent seminar requirement from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs if the student can demonstrate good cause.
May students take an externship in the summer?
Students may take an externship during the summer. Students must work 24 hours a week for 7 weeks for a total of 168 hours. Only the Faculty Supervised Externship is available during the summer. Students receive 3 credits for the externship. Full-time students are responsible for the cost of externship course credits.
Can students receive compensation and academic credit for an externship?
No, the ABA Rules prohibit students from receiving compensation and academic credit for an externship field placement.
May I do more than one field placement in the same semester?
No, this is not permitted. The time commitment required at the externship placement coupled with school work makes this simply impossible.
Can a student secure his or her own externship placement?
Students may secure their own externship placement in a judicial or public interest setting or law firm with prior approval. Student should contact Marie Fletcher, Clinical Programs Administrator, to get additional information on the approval process. The Clinical Programs Administrator can provide students with the Guidelines for Student Secured Externship Placements. These guidelines can also be found on the law school website under Student Secured Externships. Student is required to work 12 hours a week for 14 weeks without compensation. The minimum work requirement for the semester is 168 hours. The Externship may be taken as the Externship Seminar or a Faculty Supervised Externship during the fall or spring semester. Summer placements are only available as a Faculty Supervised Externship.
Is there an externship orientation?
All students must attend the externship orientation scheduled prior to the start of the semester for their first externship. A student may request a waiver of the Orientation requirement from the Clinical Programs Administrator if the student can demonstrate good cause.
Do I need to be 303 certified for student practice during my placement?
Some externship placements provide an opportunity for students to represent clients in court. Under certain circumstances, Rule 3:03 of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court allows students in their last year and their next-to-last year (or if a part-time student, if you have completed 56 credits) to represent certain clients in Massachusetts courts without compensation, under the supervision of a qualified member of the Massachusetts Bar, subject to other conditions set out more fully in Rule 3:03. The SJC automatically rescinds 3:03 certification at the end of each semester. Therefore, students must submit a request for 3:03 certification each semester. Requirements for 3:03 certification are available from the Registrar’s Office and the Clinical Programs Administrator. Students should contact Clinical Programs Administrator to request certification under SJC Rule 3:03 for their externship placement.