Valparaiso University Law School puts a great deal of focus on instilling a deep understanding of legal theory and translating it into practical, real-world lawyering.
The Externship Program, started in 1985 with only two positions, has since grown to more than 90 approved offerings in over 176 discrete offices in which students can work as externs. In 2011, the school was ranked 14 on the National Jurist’s list of Top Law Schools for Externship Opportunities, with 30 percent of law school students participating in externships each year.
Externships allow students to earn academic credit while working in a real-world, legal environment. It also assists students in honing their legal research and writing skills, a talent that most employers’ state is the most critical qualification in hiring. Students are allowed to participate in externships after completion of their first year for up to three semesters for a total of 9 academic credits.
As the program has grown, students are able to pursue opportunities in more fields of interest. Offerings include placement within judicial chambers, non-profit and public sector employers, and government agencies covering a variety of subject areas of the law. Externships also provide a unique networking opportunity. One former student credits her externship experience for the federal judicial clerkship in which she currently works. “My first externship helped greatly to prepare me for the interviewing process. The quantity of writing experience gained through externships helps and is different from what you get in class because it is so much more independent.” She cites her externship experience with giving her the opportunity to see the inner workings of an office and opening the door to employment opportunities after graduation.
According to Lisa Cannon, Director of Experiential Education, “Most externship opportunities are just like their paid counterparts, requiring submittal of a resume and application, then an extensive interview process in competition with other talented law students, often from area law schools. Many students pursue a career in the externship field they experienced. An externship helps ‘bring it all together’ for a student, and assists him or her in discovering what area of practice they may be interested in post-graduation. It also provides an opportunity to develop professional relationships with attorneys in the field.”