Study Outside of the Classroom
Students who want academic credit for legal experience may enroll in the Externship Program, which is offered for four credits in the spring semester and for four or ten credits during the summer semester. The class is not offered in the fall semester. In the four-credit externship, students must complete 180 hours at the placement site, approximately 14 hours a week. In the eight-credit externship, students must complete 270 hours at the placement site, approximately 30 hours per week. Professor William L. Robinson is the Director of the Externship Program. Dena Bauman, the Career Services Director, co-directs. The ten-credit option includes the eight-credit externship class and the two-credit Civil Rights Seminar taught by Professors William Robinson and Wade Henderson (see below).
For either option, students must have completed three semesters of law school and the externship cannot be taken simultaneously with a clinic, which is a required course in the second semester of second year and the first semester of the third year. As a practical matter, therefore, the externship program is limited to third-year students, either taking the class in the summer after their second year or in the spring of their third year. The externship program accepts visiting students from other law schools on a case-by-case basis.
The externship program provides law students with expanded opportunities to:
- Develop and improve their legal skills;
- Hone their problem-solving and professional management skills;
- Engage in critical reflection on the profession and their role as practitioners;
- Explore career areas of particular interest; and
- Develop a life-long model of professional development.
Eligible sites include placements with members of the judiciary, governmental agencies, or non-profit legal organizations; students may not receive credit for work with private law firms or for-profit groups. Students may not receive academic credit for paid externships. Students may find their own site (subject to approval) or request placement by Professor Robinson or Ms. Bauman. Recent placements include the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General, the District of Columbia Council, The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Public Defenders Office of the District of Columbia and Maryland, and the US Tax Court. Many students have externed with judges on the District of Columbia Superior Court. Professor Robinson and Ms. Bauman work closely with field placement supervisors, including an on-site visit each semester, to ensure that students receive valuable substantive experience, effective supervision, and appropriate academic evaluation. Field supervisors prepare extensive written mid-term and final evaluations of the student’s work.
At the beginning of the semester, the student meets individually with Professor Robinson and Ms. Bauman in an "entrance interview.” Students prepare a "goals memo” for that meeting, which discusses the student’s goals for the externship, long-term professional goals, and how the externship will help move the student toward those goals. The goals memo provides a benchmark for the externship. During the "exit interview” at the end of the semester, the student and co-directors meet again to reflect on the student’s experience.
An important component of the externship program is the journal requirement. Students keep a weekly journal reflecting on issues and problems that arise during the placement, and share those reflections with the co-directors. The journal helps students develop a systematic way to reflect on and analyze their experience, enabling their growth as a professional.
All students meet for a weekly one-hour tutorial, co-taught by Professor William Robinson and Ms. Bauman. During the tutorial, students examine the broader social, political, economic, and policy-related ramifications of their fieldwork as well as a variety of issues connected with the practice of law, including the role of lawyers in shaping public policy, the practice of public interest law, and the diversity of legal careers. Tutorials include assignments from the course textbook, Learning from Practice
, and student and guest presentations.
For additional information, see Externship Program FAQs
"Civil Rights in the 21st Century"
The summer ten-credit externship is a unique combination of intensive fieldwork and a two-credit class called "Civil Rights in the 21st Century." Wade Henderson
, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Professor of Public Interest Law at the School of Law, co-teaches the class with Professor Robinson
. The class, which can also be taken without enrolling in the externship class, offers students a distinctive opportunity for an in-depth review of a number of cutting edge civil rights issues including: discrimination in education, housing, employment and voting. Students also hear from and exchange views with guest lecturers on topics such as election protection and discrimination against Asian Americans. Students are required to write a paper on a current civil rights topic.