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FAQ for Externships

What is an externship and how does it differ from an internship?

An externship is a course in which a student works in a legal placement outside the law school for academic credit.  An internship may be a paid or unpaid position with a legal employer in which there is no academic credit awarded to the student.

Why take an externship?

The law school recognizes its obligation to train its graduates to be fully prepared to practice law.  Externships provide students with the practice needed to represent clients with confidence after graduation.  Externships provide an opportunity to develop lawyering skills through participation in activities such as legal research and writing, courtroom observation, client interviewing and counseling, factual investigation, development and implementation of case theory and strategy, negotiation, mediation, litigation skills and other forms of advocacy.

How do I know which externship placements are available?

Each semester a list of participating externship sites is placed on the Externship webpage and opportunities are posted on Symplicity.  Additionally, an informational meeting is held to provide students with an overview of the externship program, a list of participating sites, and guidelines for the application and enrollment process.

When may a student take an externship?

Externships are open to students will have successfully completed 28 hours of law studies prior to their placement semester. This generally means that fulltime students may apply for an externship beginning the second semester of their first year for a placement the following fall semester. Part-time students may apply beginning the second semester of their second year for a placement the following fall semester.

How do I apply for an externship placement?

Students apply for externships through Symplicity, the Law School’s online recruitment system. Application materials are forwarded to Externship Site Supervisors after the deadline date.  In most cases externship sites will contact students of interest to set up interviews. Based on application materials and interviews externship sites will extend offers directly to students.

What should I do if I don't hear back from the placement to which I have applied?

Although we ask externship sites to make externship selections before students leave campus for vacation, some placements may not always be able to meet our deadlines due to pressing business or personnel changes. Please be patient, but let the Clinical Programs Administrator know if you are still waiting to hear. We will be glad to follow up with offices to check on the status of your application.

What do I do after I receive an offer?

Upon acceptance of an offer of an externship, candidates should immediately withdraw from previously scheduled interviews with all other externship sites. Students must also notify the Clinical Programs Administrator with whom they have accepted a placement.

What is the difference between the Externship Seminar and the Faculty Supervised Externship?

Under both options, students are required to work 12 hours per week for 13 weeks for a total of 156  semester hours. The Externship Seminar is taken concurrently with a student’s first externship placement. Students receive 3 credits for the placement and 1 credit for the seminar. 

After successfully completing an externship and the accompanying seminar class, students may take any of the approved Externship placements or an approved student secured externship placement as a Faculty Supervised Externship. Students must secure a full-time faculty member to be an advisor prior to enrolling for the externship.  Students meet with the faculty supervisor at least once every other week. Students are responsible for completing a conflicts form, a learning agenda, evaluations, and submitting weekly time sheets and journals. Students receive 3 credits for a Faculty Supervised Externship.

How do I enroll for an Externship?

First, notify the Clinical Programs Administrator of your placement. 

To enroll for the Externship Seminar, complete the Externship Seminar enrollment form found on the Registrar Forms webpage

To enroll for a Faculty Supervised Externship, secure a faculty advisor and complete the Faculty Supervised Externship Enrollment form found on the Registrar Forms webpage.   

How do I find a faculty advisor?

Students may ask any full-time faculty member to supervise a faculty supervised externship. 

Do students enjoy taking Externships?

Externship students consistently comment that their externship placement was the most valuable experience obtained in law school.  Here are a few quotes:

 “You cannot learn from a textbook what the externship will teach you.”

 “This was easily one of the most rewarding experiences that I had in law school, and I highly recommend it to anyone no matter what type of law they want to practice.”

 “I can’t say enough about my externship.  It was by far the best experience I had in law school.”

Is an externship a required course?

No, externships are elective and not required for graduation.  However, externship credits count toward the six experiential learning credits required for graduation.

How are externships graded?

Externships are graded Pass/Fail.  

How many hours are students required to work each week at their field placement?

During the fall and spring semesters students are required to work 12 hours a week starting with the first week of classes for a total of 156 hours for the semester. During the summer semester students are required to work 156 hours over a 8-week period (approximately 19.5 hours/week).

How do I set up my work schedule?

Once you know your class schedule, you may arrange your work schedule directly with the placement. We recommend that you consult with your supervising attorney as to days/times that it is most advantageous to work. (e.g., when trials, hearing, meetings, conferences, etc. are likely to take place.) It is ideal if you have one or two days each week with no classes or at least a period of 4 or 5 hours free a couple of days each week.

May a student withdraw from an externship?

Externships are Restricted Withdrawal courses. Externship supervisors rely on commitments made by students. Once a student affirmatively accepts an externship, the student is committed to participate in that externship. A student who withdraws from this externship course any time after 30 days prior to the start of the semester shall receive a “W” on their transcript.

Can a student do an externship and a clinic in the same semester?

Due to the time commitment required by both clinics and externships, students may not take a clinic and externship in the same semester. 

May I take more than one externship?

During law school, students may take three externships.  The placements must be substantially different.  Students are required to take the Externship Seminar with their first externship placement.

May students take an externship in the summer?

Students may take a faculty supervised externship during the summer.  Students are required to work 156 on-site hours over a 8-week period (approximately 19.5 hours/week). Students are required to meet with their faculty supervisor at least every other week. Students are responsible for completing a conflicts form, a learning agenda, evaluations, and submitting weekly time sheets and journals.

A waiver is required for a faculty supervised externship if the externship seminar has not been completed.  PLease contact the Clinical Programs Administrator to request a waiver for the seminar.

Are students required to pay for the course credits if they take a summer externship?

Full-time students must pay for the credits. Part-time students may take it as part of their summer semester.

Can students receive compensation and academic credit for an externship?

No, according to the law school’s rules students may not receive financial compensation for their work.

May I do more than one field placement in the same semester?

No, this is not permitted. The time commitment required at the externship placement coupled with schoolwork makes this simply impossible.

Can a student secure his or her own externship placement?

Students may secure their own externship placement in a judicial or public interest setting or law firm with prior approval from Professor Cohen. Students seeking approval of a student secured externship must provide information that demonstrates a good reason why they cannot obtain a similar experience at one of the approved sites, including expanding geographic, practice, or substantive areas. Once preliminary approval is granted, information will be sent to the supervising attorney to start the approval process. Sufficient lead time (a minimum of 2 weeks prior to the start of the semester) must be given to complete the approval process.Contact the Clinical Programs Administratorr to start the approval process.

Do I need to be 303 certified for student practice during my placement?

Some externship placements provide an opportunity for students to represent clients in court. Under certain circumstances, Rule 3:03 of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court allows students in their last year and their next-to-last year (or if a part-time student, if you have completed 56 credits) to represent certain clients in Massachusetts courts without compensation, under the supervision of a qualified member of the Massachusetts Bar, subject to other conditions set out more fully in Rule 3:03. Students must be approved again in their third year even if they have had 3:03 certification during their second year of law school. Students eligible to practice under Rule 3:03 should contact the Clinical Programs Administrator to complete the certification paperwork.

Can I take a second externship at the same placement site?

Students may extern with the same supervisor or at the same site at which the student has been placed as an extern or clinic student, had an employment relationship, or has worked as a volunteer only if the placement will provide a qualitatively different or broader learning experience than the student has had as a volunteer, employee, or extern. Students wishing to enroll in such a placement must submit a written confirmation from the supervisor describing the prior work and how the new responsibilities will be qualitatively different.  This information should be sent to the Clinical Programs Administrator to coordinate approval at least two weeks prior to the start of the semester.

Can I be supervised by a family member or close friend?

Externs may not be supervised by a family member or a close friend. Students who wish to extern in an office where a family member or close friend works must obtain the permission of the Externship Director.

Can I hold legal employment while participating in a judicial externship?

Externs cannot hold legal employment while participating in a judicial externship. An extern can hold a non-legal job, but cannot work for a law firm or do any paid or unpaid work that in any way involves the law.