Field Placement (Externships) Frequently Asked Questions for Students

How many credit hours of field placement (externship) credit can I take?
Students may take a maximum of six credit hours. Earning more than six hours of externship credit (even divided between multiple opportunities) requires additional faculty approval. A new 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.

One credit hour requires approximately 42.5 hours of work.

What types of workplaces are allowed? (non-profit, for-profit, judicial, government, etc)
Almost any workplace, so long as there is a supervising attorney on-site or the work is suitably legal in nature, may qualify.

Note that placements at for-profit businesses (like law firms) formerly required additional documentation showing how the placement will comply with educational goals of the program and the Fair Labor Standards Act for approval from the curriculum committee. That process is now covered in the new Supervisor Manual and your onsite supervisor must acknowledge receipt of that manual.

What is the class? Is the class remote or in person? 
All students registered for externship credit must participate in the class. The classes meet 5 times each semester or summer and are taught in-person for placements that are within 75 miles of the law college (thus including those working in Omaha). For students at placements outside of that 75 mile range we’ll work together to identify a time for an “online section.” In the future we plan to have separate remote course numbers for registration with an assigned time to help students in plan. You can learn more about the class here.

What if my onsite supervisor isn’t an attorney?
If the onsite supervisor does not have a JD degree then the college requires approval from the Curriculum Committee. Students should plan to draft a petition to the committee clarifying their work and why may be suitably legal in nature. 

Note, this rule is pending a rule change in December 2022 and may be updated to reflect a more streamlined process. 

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. Students should visit law.unl.edu/externships to start the position proposal process.

  • Form A: Student Proposal is your proposal to the college for the position. On this form the student will supply logistical information about the experience and details about the expected work. This form must be submitted and electronically signed by the student
  • Form B: Supervisor Agreement is the onsite supervisor agreement. This must be filled out, electronically signed by your on-site supervisor, and submitted.

There are other forms (disappointing, we know) that will be made available in Canvas. These include your educational goals, your timesheets, and your final evaluation.

How do I report my hours?
Form D: Time Log will be found in Canvas and is an example timesheet for reporting your hours. This sheet can be completed electronically or handwritten and scanned in to be submitted in Canvas weekly. Please retain records of your hours.

Where do I find the forms?
Students should visit law.unl.edu/externships to submit the placement proposal. Onsite supervisors will visit the same page to submit their Supervisor's Agreement. All other documentation will be provided in the course.

Note, additional approvals (if its more than 6 hours or the supervisor isn’t an attorney for example) may require the student to draft a short petition and there is not a standard form – however prior examples are available. 

How am I graded?
Externships are pass/fail. Passing will be determined by the Director of Externships with feedback and comments from the on-site supervisor. They review the weekly journals and time sheets submitted by the students, your course work, your goals and educational plans, and your final reflection on the experience.

Does an externship satisfy my “Skills Course” requirements?
A final determination on this is pending and will be updated soon. 

I can’t find a faculty member to supervise my externship.
Students no longer need to find an individual faculty member to supervise a placement. All placements under 6 credit hours are by default supervised by the Director of Externships. Faculty are invited to co-supervise students with the Director where they are interested in doing so and are always available to provide subject matter expertise to students.

How often do I need to work?
Externs must complete 42.5 hours of work to earn one hour of academic credit. These hours must be logged and reported to your faculty and onsite supervisors. Time spent preparing for class and time spent in class is included in these hours. There are typically 16 weeks in the fall and spring academic semesters.  

Can I be paid?
A formal rule on this issue is pending in front of the faculty this winter and this will be updated as soon as possible. For the present the rule preventing paid externships stands, unless a student petitions for special approval from the full faculty. 

Who is Eligible?
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. A maximum of six hours of externship credit shall be counted toward the graduation requirements for the J.D. degree. To have more than six credit hours for a single externship counted toward the graduation requirements for the J.D. degree, the externship must be approved by the faculty as a separate, distinct and ongoing externship program. A student may participate in more than one externship during the student’s course of study at the College of Law, but the total number of credit hours awarded for all externships shall not exceed six credit hours.

Is it an Externship or a Field Placement?
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, but recognize that will be a slow change.

What is the goal of a Field Placement (externship)?
The educational goals of the Externship Program are:

  • To encourage the further development of the student’s legal research, writing and drafting skills through work on various types of documents;
  • To expose the student to lawyering skills through participation in or observations of activities such as interviewing, counseling, negotiation, mediation, oral and written advocacy, factual investigation, public hearings and the development of strategies for case management and the legislative process;
  • To develop the student’s advocacy skills through participation in or observations of court proceedings, discovery, administrative agency proceedings, lobbying activities and legislative hearings and debate;
  • To give the student practical legal experience and to enhance the student’s understanding of the application of the principles learned in law school to real world legal problems;
  • To give the student the opportunity to participate in, and reflect upon, the work of legal institutions;
  • To expose the student to issues of professional responsibility within the context of the workplace;
  • To encourage the student to explore and consider the different roles that lawyers have in the economy and in society, and to expose them to the range of career opportunities available to those individuals who possess a J.D. degree; and
  • To permit the student to gain practical experience in specialized areas of the law through experiences that will supplement the student’s course work within the law school.

6+ Credit Hour Placements
Under Nebraska Law's policy, a maximum of six hours of externship credit shall be counted toward the graduation requirements for the J.D. degree. To have more than six credit hours for a single placement counted toward the graduation requirements for the J.D. degree, the placement must be approved by the faculty as a separate, distinct and ongoing externship program. A student may participate in more than one externship during the student’s course of study at the College of Law, but the total number of credit hours awarded shall not exceed six credit hours. Some examples include approved placements at NORAD and NORTHCOM and Senator Fischer's Office. Student's with questions about 12 credit hour, full time, placements should contact the Director of Externships, Elsbeth Magilton (elsbeth@unl.edu).