The College of Law thanks you for your interest in supporting our students through a field placement!
By agreeing to supervise a student you are becoming a part of their educational journey and professional development. It's important to understand that supervising an externship is a greater responsibility than working with other types of student employees where students are not earning credit (like most internships, for example). Onsite supervisors should see themselves not only as supervisor, but also as a mentor and a teacher.
Organizations that have never supervised a student as an extern are required to schedule a call or visit with the Director of Externships, Professor Elsbeth Magilton (email@example.com) before a student may begin work in their office.
Expectations of Supervisors
The primary responsibility for onsite supervisors is to ensure student educational goals are met and providing meaningful mentorship and feedback. There are a series of forms that are required to be submitted. These responsibilities are described below:
- Reviewing this manual and filling out the Supervisor Agreement confirming you understanding your role as a supervisor.
- Meeting with the student prior to (or very early in) their placement to set their educational goals for the semester. The student is required to meet with their onsite supervisor and submit this form to the college. There are more details on goal setting and creating the students educational benchmarks below.
- Within the first few week of the placement the student will work to arrange a meeting with their supervisor to review relevant rules of professional responsibility, most importantly discussing confidentiality. The supervisor should find time to meet with the student and provide insight of the organization's policies and standards for confidentiality and any relevant privacy or information (IT) security policies. This is also a good time to review your organization's relevant employment policies, including any policies relating to ethics, whistleblower complaints, retaliation, diversity, equity and inclusion, and equal opportunity. In the supervisors agreement, you will be asked to confirm that you will review these relevant policies with students.
- Students are required to keep a weekly time log for the externship class. These logs will include hours worked onsite (or remotely) and class prep and class time. The students are required to submit these logs weekly in Canvas to their professor. Supervisors may request students also email them a weekly copy of that log.
- During the placement the supervisor is responsible for giving the student regular feedback and responding to communications, with the expectations that supervisors will meet or, at a minimum communicate in some format, weekly.
- Supervisors must submit two required evaluations, mid-semester and final, of the student to the Director of Externships. The mid-semester and final evaluations are both electronic forms, but review of these evaluations also happens ideally in person with the student. It is also important to note that these evaluations of the student's performance are required for the student to receive credit and one of the most important parts of being a supervisor. Supervisors should plan to spend 20-40 minutes completing the evaluations and another 40 minutes reviewing your assessment with the student.
- Onsite supervisors are invited to watch student classroom final presentations discussing their placements at the end of each semester or summer session.
Additional details, best practices, and supporting information is outlined below. Supervisors are required to review this information in full before submitting their Supervisor Agreement.
Purpose and goals
The primary focus of the Field Placement (Externship) Program is educational. The educational goals for the student include:
- Furthering the development of research, writing and drafting skills
- Exploring lawyering skills related to different areas of the legal profession
- Enhancing oral advocacy and/or communication skills
- Developing an understanding of professional responsibility
- Reflecting upon the role of the lawyer in a particular area of the law, and more broadly, as related to societal issues
Confidentiality and planning
Although your role as an externship supervisor will involve supervising the performance of legal tasks, your student extern can learn other invaluable insights from your observations about the legal system and the role of lawyers in that system. Your extern may have little or no prior legal work experience. We require student externs to reflect on a number of issues such as:
(1) the relationships between attorneys and support staff, clients, other attorneys, judges, legislators, and members of the public;
(2) work environment and outside pressures;
(3) the relationship between the legal work and an attorney’s personal goals and values; and
(4) the ethical issues that may arise in the attorney’s particular area.
We would like your student extern to discuss these observations with you and instagating those discussions will be a part of their course assignments. As a mentor to your student extern, you can add an enriching perspective to the student’s observations by sharing your opinions about the legal system and the role of an attorney in your particular area. In addition to requiring a daily log of work activities, we require your student extern to reflect on the externship experiences through written weekly assignments. The process of journal writing complements the process of reflection and is a part of the course component for students.
Students are required to attend the one-credit course throughout the semester. The journal and essay entries will be reviewed by your extern’s professor, and it is therefore essential for you and your student extern to have a discussion at the beginning of the externship regarding your office’s policies and procedures governing confidentiality for the written journal entries. This discussion regarding confidentiality rules should take place within the first two week of the course and is also incorporated into a classroom assignment for the student.
Educational goals and best practices
Your extern will ask you to work with them to develop their educational planning and goals. This form asks them to set three goals for their placement and think through methods for achieving those goals. In class they'll apply the SMART analysis for goal setting and use these goals as a guide post throughout the semester. Your job, as their supervisor, is to help ensure these goals are reasonable, related to the work of your office, and are specific enough to be achievable.
During the term your extern will also ask you to complete two evaluations of their performance: midway through the term and at the completion of the term. We don't share these evaluations with your student, so supervisors are encouraged to meet with the students to review their performance and fill out these forms together or review your responses.
A key to a successful externship is the ability of the externship supervisor to give assignments to the extern effectively. When any project is assigned, it is important for the student to know exactly what you expect and to communicate clearly all aspects of these expectations. Please remember that your student extern may have little or no prior work experience in a professional office.
Listed below are some checklist-type questions that you may find helpful in planning and presenting work assignments to your student extern.
- Structure and explain the assignment with the relative inexperience of the student in mind.
- Give the assignment in writing whenever possible. This gives the student something to refer to after your assignment meeting. If given in person, encourage the student to take notes.
- Discuss the basic objectives of the assignment or project with the student, including how many issues you expect the student to address. Explain how this particular assignment fits into the overall case or matter and how the assignment will accomplish your objectives.
- Provide the student with some guidance in terms of starting points for legal research to help focus the issue.
- Specify how you want the student’s work product, including how technically perfect you want the letter/memo/brief to be in terms of case citations, for example, and whether you want a rough draft, more polished draft and/or finished product.
- Specify how much time you expect the student to spend on the assignment, including time for research and drafting (keeping in mind that students are often inexperienced and require extra time for thorough research).
- Specify relevant due dates for drafts and the final product and how you want the student to check in with you for progress meetings. Make sure you and the student have communicated your schedules to each other so that progress meetings are accomplished as planned
- Make sure the student is aware of the format you require. If possible, provide the student with an example of the format of the memo, brief, letter etc., to assist the student in understanding your expectations.
- Tell the student who to ask for ask for assistance if you are unavailable.
- Ask the student if he or she has questions (again, remembering that some students may be unfamiliar with the substantive area of law you are asking them to address).
Follow up regularly as the assignment progresses. As students begin working on assignments, they often need additional and periodic help, assignment clarification, reassurance, or relief. Redefinition of the task is common as the student gathers information and gains a more precise understanding of the assignment. Given that interactions during this phase are frequently marked by informality and brevity, the importance of these exchanges can be easily overlooked. It is important for you and the student to keep to your scheduled progress meetings.
Provide feedback to the student on the completed assignment.
At the completion of an assignment, you should solicit student impressions about performance and convey your impressions about the performance on the assignment. Without periodic feedback, neither you nor the student extern can effectively evaluate his or her performance and make any necessary changes to result in a final product which closely resembles your goals for the assignment and provides your student with a sense of accomplishment.
Topics to discuss in your initial meetings
As an externship supervisor, you provide students a wealth of opportunities to not only develop professional legal skills, but to experience and reflect upon the process of becoming a member of the legal profession. Part of becoming a professional is learning how a particular workplace functions. You and your extern should initially discuss:
- The function and structure of the agency, office, or organization
- The nature of the legal work and extern’s role
- Relevant office policies and the chain of command
- Best methods for communication and scheduling meetings with you
- The student’s normal work schedule (days and hours)
- Layout of the office and introduction to office personnel
- The student’s workspace and technoloy
- An explanation of the student’s first assignment
The one-credit course component of the externship course shall be graded on the Nebraska Law grading scale by the Director of Externships. The credit hours completed via field work shall be graded pass or no pass, based on student feedback of their experience and the feedback supervisor's provide in the Mid-Semester Evaluation, Final Evaluation, or directly to the Director of Externships. The final evaluations asks for your recommendation.
Note, as of November 2023, Nebraska Law permits students to receive payment for their onsite externship hours in the form of direct compensation, fellowships, or reimbursements for reasonable expenses incurred during the externship. Such payments must not compromise the educational nature of the externship and must align with the learning goals of the program. Students must never be paid for hours spent in the supplementary externship course or working on assignments for that course.
This does not mean all placements must be paid. The majority of externships will likely remain unpaid positions through government and nonprofit programs unable to pay student. Externships are typically not a fit for full time law firm summer associate programs, which often have their own educational goals and programming. Part time law firm positions in the fall or sprin may be a good fits for the program, providing the law firm has the time and personnel available for mentorship.
The Fair Labor Standards Act provisions do not apply to government or non-profit positions.
Professors and externship professionals in the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) have put together a series of training videos for supervisors to reference. These videos cover onboarding, goal setting, and many other tasks you may engage in with your student extern. The playlist is available on CLEA's YouTube page here.
Additional outside rules and guidelines that may be useful to supervisors
Field Placements (Externships) at Nebraska Law are completed in compliance with American Bar Association (ABA) standards. The relevant standard, 304, is provided here for your review, referencing standard 303 on law school courses.
Standard 304: Externships
(a) Experiential courses satisfying Standard 303(a) are simulation courses, law clinics, and field placements that must be primarily experiential in nature and must:
(1) integrate doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics, and engage students in performance of one or more of the professional skills identified in Standard 302;
(2) develop the concepts underlying the professional skills being taught;
(3) provide multiple opportunities for performance;
(4) provide opportunities for student performance, self-evaluation, and feedback from a faculty member, or, for a field placement, a site supervisor;
(5) provide a classroom instructional component; or, for a field placement, a classroom instructional component, regularly scheduled tutorials, or other means of ongoing, contemporaneous, faculty-guided reflection; and
(6) provide direct supervision of the student’s performance by the faculty member; or, for a field placement, provide direct supervision of the student’s performance by a faculty member or a site supervisor.
(b) A simulation course provides substantial experience not involving an actual client, that is reasonably similar to the experience of a lawyer advising or representing a client or engaging in other lawyering tasks in a set of facts and circumstances devised or adopted by a faculty member.
(c) A law clinic provides substantial lawyering experience that involves advising or representing one or more actual clients or serving as a third-party neutral.
(d) A field placement course provides substantial lawyering experience that (1) is reasonably similar to the experience of a lawyer advising or representing a client or engaging in other lawyering tasks in a setting outside a law clinic under the supervision of a licensed attorney or an individual otherwise qualified to supervise, and (2) includes the following:
(i) a written understanding among the student, faculty member, and a person in authority at the field placement that describes both (A) the substantial lawyering experience and opportunities for performance, feedback and self-evaluation; and (B) the respective roles of faculty and any site supervisor in supervising the student and in assuring the educational quality of the experience for the student, including a clearly articulated method of evaluating the student’s academic performance;
(ii) a method for selecting, training, evaluating and communicating with site supervisors, including regular contact between the faculty and site supervisors through in-person visits or other methods of communication that will assure the quality of the student educational experience. When appropriate, a school may use faculty members from other law schools to supervise or assist in the supervision or review of a field placement program;
(iii) evaluation of each student’s educational achievement by a faculty member; and
(iv) sufficient control of the student experience to ensure that the requirements of the Standard are met. The law school must maintain records to document the steps taken to ensure compliance with the Standard, which shall include, but is not necessarily limited to, the written understandings described in Standard 304(d)(i).
(e) Credit granted for such a simulation, law clinic, or field placement course shall be commensurate with the time and effort required and the anticipated quality of the educational experience of the student.
(f) Each student in such a simulation, law clinic, or field placement course shall have successfully completed sufficient prerequisites or shall receive sufficient contemporaneous training to assure the quality of the student educational experience.
When appropriate, a school may use faculty members from other law schools to supervise or assist in the supervision or review of a field placement program.
Requirements for unpaid externships under the Fair Labor Standards Act
If a student is unpaid and in a for-profit environment, the United States Department of Labor has published fact sheet #71 providing general information concerning the potential application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to unpaid externships with private sector for-profit employers. This fact sheet provides general information to help determine whether interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the services that they provide to “for-profit” private sector employers.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines the term “employ” very broadly as including to “suffer or permit to work.” Covered and non-exempt individuals who are “suffered or permitted” to work must be compensated under the law for the services they perform for an employer. Internships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the test described below relating to trainees is met. Interns in the “for- profit” private sector who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.
The FLSA makes a special exception under certain circumstances for individuals who volunteer to perform services for a state or local government agency and for individuals who volunteer for humanitarian purposes for private non-profit food banks. WHD also recognizes an exception for individuals who volunteer their time, freely and without anticipation of compensation for religious, charitable, civic, or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations. Unpaid internships i the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations, where the intern volunteers without expectation of compensation, are generally permissible. WHD is reviewing the need for additional guidance on internships in the public and non-profit sectors.
The Test For Unpaid Interns
There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation. The Supreme Court has held that the term “suffer or permit to work” cannot be interpreted so as to make a person whose work serves only his or her own interest an employee of another who provides aid or instruction. This may apply to interns who receive training for their own educational benefit if the training meets certain criteria. The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each such program.
The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern. This exclusion from the definition of employment is necessarily quite narrow because the FLSA’s definition of “employ” is very broad. Some of the most commonly discussed factors for “for- profit” private sector internship programs are considered below.
Similar To An Education Environment And The Primary Beneficiary Of the Activity
In general, the more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer’s actual operations, the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience (this often occurs where a college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit). The more the internship provides the individual with skills that can be used in multiple employment settings, as opposed to skills particular to one employer’s operations, the more likely the intern would be viewed as receiving training. Under these circumstances the intern does not perform the routine work of the business on a regular and recurring basis, and the business is not dependent upon the work of the intern. On the other hand, if the interns are engaged in the operations of the employer or are performing productive work (for example, filing, performing other clerical work, or assisting customers), then the fact that they may be receiving some benefits in the form of a new skill or improved work habits will not exclude them from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements because the employer benefits from the interns’ work.
Displacement And Supervision Issues
If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek. If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA. Conversely, if the employer is providing job shadowing opportunities that allow an intern to learn certain functions under the close and constant supervision of regular employees, but the intern performs no or minimal work, the activity is more likely to be viewed as a bona fide education experience. On the other hand, if the intern receives the same level of supervision as the employer’s regular workforce, this would suggest an employment relationship, rather than training.
The internship should be of a fixed duration, established prior to the outset of the internship. Further, unpaid internships generally should not be used by the employer as a trial period for individuals seeking employment as the conclusion of the internship period. If an intern is placed with the employer for a trial period with the expectation that he or she will then be hired on a permanent basis, that individual generally would be considered an employee under the FLSA
Where to Obtain Additional Information
This publication is for general information and is not to be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in the regulations.
By signing your Supervisor Agreement, you confirm you’ve read and understand this information and if applicable, comply with the standards described above.