What is an externship?
In law school, an externship is a student field placement (meaning an office placement within the field of law) where the student earns academic credit for their work in the office and for a course work that accompanies it. On their face, externships may look and feel a lot like a regular internship or clerkship, however it’s important to note the primary goals differ. Externships have the ultimate goal of educational growth and require an additional course within the college. Other positions may focus more on work product output.
What is the class?
All students registered for externship credit must participate in the class. The course has two sections. Section one is for first-time externs and section two is for second-time externs. The first section meets in-person bi-weekly. Second time externs receive new assignments asynchronously - section two does not attend a bi-weekly class. The fall and spring classes are taught in-person for placements that are within 75 miles of the law college (thus including those working in Omaha). Students at placements outside of that 75 mile range, doing a “semester-away,” will be placed in section two. Summer session is typically taught online to accommodate placements across the country. The program is designed for students to do two 3-credit externships or one 6-credit externship.
What types of workplaces are allowed?
Almost any workplace, so long as there is a supervising attorney on-site or the work is suitably legal in nature, may qualify. Most externships are completed in government, judicial, and non-profit placements. Note, externships are typically not a good fit for law firm summer associate programs, which often have their own educational goals and programming. Students should be fully engaged in that experience. Part time law firm positions in the fall or spring may be a good fits for the program, providing the law firm has the time and personnel available for the required level of mentorship and oversite. This includes the required meeting sessions with you for goal planning and feedback, and the externship evaluation forms, which can not be performed by a non-attorney office or human resources manager.
How do I find an externship?
There is no master hub to apply for all possible externships, and Nebraska does not run a “Matching Program,” but there are many avenues to identify a potential placement. The search and the hiring process is part of the educational experience, but we’re here to support you!
- Career Development Office and 12Twenty: All externship positions we receive information about will be posted to 12Twenty (like many of the judicial positions) and students can apply directly there! Some internships or clerkships posted to 12Twenty could also be made into externships.The CDO has a long history with many employers who have hosted externs. If you share your interests they may know of someone to contact.
- Faculty Members: Identify an area you're interested in and what faculty member works in that area. They may have connections at a location and have an idea for you. Note, be clear that you're not asking them to supervise or create an externship for you (or they'll send you back to the Director of Externships). Rather, explain that you're hoping to gather ideas and create connections in their area.
- Alumni and Current Students: Students interested in the same subjects as you may have already done an externship or know of other students who have contacts in offices and could connect you. Don't be afraid to ask! We have a large alumni network across the nation (and world). If there is a office or location you're particularly interested in, the CDO can help you identify alumni in the area who may have ideas for offices open to externs!
- Offices and Interests: Some office post their internships on their employment pages. Internship programs can be great avenues for creating an externship (noting some restrictions). Don't be afraid to cold call! If there is a dream firm, office, non-profit you'd like to spend a semester with, reach out and ask! You can also ask Professor Magilton or CDO for help to make these connections.
- Externship Director: Schedule a meeting with Professor Magilton. Nebraska has a long history with many offices and may be able to locate contacts based on your interests or can support you in reaching out to develop a new connection.
How many total credits of field placement (externship) credit can I take?
Students may take a maximum of six credit hours during their time at Nebraska law. The accompanying course is included in that total and is 1 credit hour. To ensure our ABA compliance, the course is required for every externship. The program is designed for students to do two 3-credit externships or one 6-credit externship. Students may do a variable 2 or 4 credit placement, but the required course may only be taken twice and students may never do more than 6 credit hours. One credit hour requires approximately 42.5 hours of work onsite. Any externship greater than six credit hours must be approved by the faculty as a “separate, distinct, and ongoing” formal externship program with an office/program. Examples of these include the semester long placements in Washington DC.
How many credits should I register for? How much should I work?
The class accounts for one credit, and each additional credit requires 42.5 hours. So, for example, if you’re doing a 3-credit externship, you’ll complete 1 credit in the course and 2 credits through the work at your placement.
- 3 Total Externship Credits = 1 credit hour course + 85 hours worked onsite (approx 6-7 hours per week)*
- 6 Total Externship Credits = 1 credit hour course + 212.5 hours worked onsite (approx 15-16 hours per week)*
There are typically 16 weeks in the fall and spring academic semesters, including finals. The above weekly averages assume students will work around 14 weekss to avoid working during finals. These hours set the minimum a student must work, students may elect to work more hours than required at their discretion.
*In the summer, work is condensed into a 10-13 week time frame and weekly averages should be adjusted.
Deadlines for Registration
Student Proposal forms, and a student-led email introducing the onsite supervisor to Director Professor Magilton, is due one month prior to the first day of the semester/session, by the end of the day (11:59pm). Do not submit a Student Proposal form until you have confirmed the placement with your supervisor - students who submit a form without having a position may be moved to the end of the enrollment list. Any proposals received after the deadline are subject to the director's discretion and course availability.
Externships in Summer 2024
April 20 – deadline for Student Proposal and introduction email
May 20 – summer session begins
Externships in Fall 2024
July 26 – deadline for Student Proposals and introduction email
Aug 26 – fall semester begins
Externships in Spring 2025
Dec 6, 2024 – deadline for Student Proposals and introduction email
Jan 6, 2025 – spring semester begins
Though the Externship Program now allows for paid placements, the core purpose of the program is still to support unpaid or low paying positions for students interested in working for the government, public service, and nonprofit sectors. Externships do this by providing credit for hours worked, allowing students to receive student loans or scholarship support for the time they spend working in these positions. To honor this purpose, and the limitations of a singular externship director and professor, the following enrollment caps are in place, effective summer 2024:
- Total Externs (combined sections one and two): 40
- At least 30 placements are reserved for government, nonprofit, or judicial positions (not-for-profit organizations).
- There are 10 placements allocated for students in law firm and corporate counsel placements (for-profit organizations).
Placement spots will be held in the order in which they are received, as indicated by the submission date and time of the Student Proposal form. If there are more than 30 proposals for not-for-profit placements received before the deadline, they will be accepted like for-profit placement proposals, in order of the date received, and may fill in any available space. If, after the deadline there are any remaining spots, students in law firm or corporate counsel positions may be given an additional opportunity to enroll at the discretion of the Director.
Can I work remotely?
Maybe. Students working remotely requires additional oversite and checks prior to approval. Generally, we require that the majority of the attorneys the student will be working with to also be working remotely – as in, it’s a remote work friendly office and set up for primarily online communications. We also look for placements that have had many remote students in and past and have a system in place for remote workers. If the placement doesn't fit these requirements, a detailed plan for how the extern will be integrated into the office community, including weekly video meetings and participation in staff events/meetings, will be required.
What if the onsite supervisor isn’t an attorney?
If the onsite supervisor does not have a JD degree then the college requires approval from The Director of Externships who then makes a recommendation to the Curriculum Committee. Students should plan to draft a petition to the Director of Externships clarifying their work and why may be suitably legal in nature.
What is required to start working? How do I formally apply/register?
Before an externship can be approved, you will need to identify both an on-site supervisor and complete some paperwork. The first step is to email-introduce the Director of Externships, Professor Magilton, to your supervisor to kick off the paperwork process, including the Student Proposal form. They will provide additional information and a code to register.
Where do I find the forms?
Students and supervisors should visit law.unl.edu/externships to find the Student Proposal, Supervisor Agreement, Educational Plan, Mid-Semester Evaluation, and the Final Evaluation form. The Supervisor Manual may also be found on that page. All other documents and assignments will be provided in the course.
How am I graded?
The one-credit course component of the externship course shall be graded on the Nebraska Law grading scale by the Director of Externships. The grade is calculated by assessments of the weekly assignments and a final presentation. The credit hours completed via field work shall be graded pass or no pass, based on the Mid-Semester Evaluation, Final Evaluation, Educational Planning Form, and feedback from the onsite supervisors by the Director of Externships. For example, for 3 total externship credits: 1 credit hour course graded on the college of law grading scale + 2 credit hours graded pass / no pass.
Does an externship satisfy my “Skills Course” requirements?
Yes. The Field Placement (Externship) course credits meet the ABA requirements for experiential learning, as do the clinics and the college’s “skills” courses.
Who is eligible to do an externship?
To be eligible to participate in an externship for academic credit, the student must have successfully completed the first-year law student curriculum prior to beginning participation in the externship. M.L.S and dual degree students are also eligible.
Is it an Externship or a Field Placement - why are there two terms?
We use “Field Placement (Externship)” in many of our communications. These two terms refer to the same thing. The American Bar Association (ABA) rules refer to externships as field placements. Historically, Nebraska Law's internal language has solely used the term externship. Over the coming years we hope to transition our language to match the ABA's, referring to these experiences at Field Placements.
Does my commute or drive time count toward my hours?
You may not count the initial drive or commute to the externship, but you may include drive time during the shift if that is in the normal course of the duties performed.
Can I be paid?
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. Note, this does not mean all positions are automatically qualified for externship credit! Nor does it mean all placements must be paid. All placements must be approved by the Director of Externships.