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.
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. 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. The required course is 1 credit hour.
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.
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 do 1 credit in the course and 2 at the placement (85 hours).
- 2 Total Externship Credits: 1 credit hour course + 42.5 hours worked onsite (spread throughout the semester)
- 3 Total Externship Credits: 1 credit hour course + 85 hours worked onsite (spread throughout the semester)
- 4 Total Externship Credits: 1 credit hour course + 127.5 hours worked onsite (spread throughout the semester)
- 5 Total Externship Credits: 1 credit hour course + 170 hours worked onsite (spread throughout the semester)
- 6 Total Externship Credits: 1 credit hour course + 212.5 hours worked onsite (spread throughout the semester)
There are typically 16 weeks in the fall and spring academic semesters including finals. Second time externs will still register for the course, but complete new assignments asynchronously and do not attend a bi-weekly class.
What is the class? Is the class remote or in person?
All students registered for externship credit must participate in the 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). For students at placements outside of that 75 mile range we’ll work together to identify a time for an “online section.” Summer classes are at the discretion of the professor.
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 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. Students should visit law.unl.edu/externships to start the position proposal process.
- The 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
- The 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 follow, after the creation of your placement. These include your educational goals, your timesheets, and your evaluations.
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.
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 currently pass/fail. Passing will be determined by the Director of Externships with feedback and comments from the onsite 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?
Yes. The Field Placement (Externship) course credits meet the ABA requirements for experiential learning, as do the clinics and the college’s “skills” courses. The college has a separate requirement that students take 6 credits of courses labeled as skills, which are held to a different standard than the ABA standard for experiential learning. Externship credits meet both requirements.
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.
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. M.L.S students in the law and psychology program as also eligible.
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.
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?
No. Presently the faculty rules at the University of Nebraska College of Law do not allow externship students to receive compensation for their work while earning credit hours.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).