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Externship Descriptions

Externship programs provide students with an opportunity to perform legal research and writing and to work closely with attorneys, prosecutors, public defenders, government agencies, legal services, and state and federal judges.  There are many externship programs available to upper division students, ranging from 2-3 cr. hrs during the fall and spring semester and 1-6 cr. hrs. during the summer semesters. See Law 725-859 in the Course Description section of law bulletin for more on the externship program or contact the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning with any questions about the program.  Open positions are posted in Symplicity each semester and students must have their resume approved by Career Planning to apply for extern positions electronically.   Samples of externship positions include opportunities with state and federal judges, public defenders, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Chicago Board of Education.

In order to receive academic credit for externships, students must:

  • Submit a resume (through Simplicity) and interview with the Field Supervisor at the externship site and/or Associate Dean for Experiential Learning prior to the close of the add/drop period during the semester in which the student expects to extern (or the year prior, in some cases), and
  • Formally register for the designated externship in the Law Registrar’s Office, if accepted. See FAQs for further information.

Student externs are expected to work at least 45 hours per academic credit.  For a three credit externship, a student must work 135 hours or approximately 10 hours per week during the 14 week semester.  Individual field supervisors may require more hours to be worked.  A student may not participate in an externship before successful completion of the first year curriculum or 30 credit hours.

Graded S/U.  Students can receive no more than nine (9.0) hours of externship credit in a total of 3 different extern sites during their law school career.  Students may NOT repeat the same or a similar setting externship without prior approval from the curriculum committee. For instance, a student may not extern for one state judge in the fall and the same or another state judge in a subsequent semester or one county’s prosecutor in one semester and the same or a different county prosecutor in another semester.  Students may NOT enroll in MORE than one externship in a semester.

Important Note: Various externships may have courses/guidelines as a pre- or co-requisite. Students selected to work for the federal government agencies (i.e., U.S. Attorney’s Office, Department of Homeland Security, ATF, FTC, etc.) that require an extensive background check must commit to the employer before the background check is started. Failure to fulfill that commitment will disqualify students from further participation in the externship program.  These government agencies also require students to be a U.S. citizen to apply.

Students enrolled in prosecutor’s offices externships must take Legal Profession, Evidence and Criminal Procedure: Investigation as a pre- or co-requisite.  See the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning at lease two weeks prior to the semester in which you are seeking an externship to determine application procedures and requirements.

Externships are graded on a Satisfactory / Unsatisfactory (S/U) basis.  Students can receive no more than nine (9.0) hours of externship credit during their law school career and may not repeat the same “or similar externship” in a subsequent semester without price approval (excluding the Federal Judge Extern Program).  Several externships have limited enrollment.

Academic credit is never extended retroactively for work already undertaken. These same conditions and requirements described above also apply to the summer externship program.

I.    Educational Objectives

A.    Externships have as their educational objectives:

1.    To promote student understanding of the law in an applied setting by involving the student in decision-making, problem-solving, and strategizing;

2.    To enhance the student’s professional skills in areas such as client interviewing and counseling, negotiating, research, legal drafting and writing, and advocating; and

3.    To provide the student an opportunity for critical reflection on the attorney’s role in various legal institutions and in society from the unique perspective of a participant-observer.

II.    Eligibility

A.    Students who have successfully completed their first year of law school, or students who have successfully completed 30 credits, may participate in an externship for academic credit.

B.    Students participating in externships should be able to demonstrate academic excellence commensurate with the externship to the Associate Dean for Experiential Education as appropriate, and to the Associate Dean.  The student must otherwise be in good standing with Valparaiso University Law School.

C.    Students may be required to take the Legal Profession course as a pre- or co-requisite.  Students enrolled in prosecutor’s offices externships must also take Evidence and Criminal Procedure: Investigation as a pre- or co-requisite.  In addition, other course pre- or co-requisites may apply depending on the particular externship (see externship descriptions for additional pre- or co-requisites).

D.    Some placements may require a security clearance or direct application to the placement.  When students must pass an intensive background check to be accepted into the program, they must commit to the employer when that background check is started.  There will be no exceptions.

E.    Students may not earn more than a total of 9 hours in externship credits.

F.    A third year student enrolled in more than three hours of an S/U externship in any semester may not exercise the S/U option for any graded course.

G.    Academic credit is never awarded retroactively for work already undertaken before a student enters an approved externship placement; all externships must be approved first by the Director of Externships Programs.

H.    To be selected to participate in an externship, students must go through the appropriate application process.

III.    Application Process

A.    Students must check Symplicity throughout the semester as extern openings will be posted in Job Openings and they may consult the descriptions of available externships from the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning. Symplicity and the job descriptions will indicate which application process to follow.  Many externship supervisors select externs each spring for the following three semesters; summer, fall, or spring. Selected field supervisors choose to conduct on-campus interviews in the spring to choose next year’s student externs.  Ocassionally, an Externship Expo is held during the school year to introduce students to some of the extern employers who typically do not conduct interviews on campus.

B.    Interested students must complete the application form or process required by a particular Field Supervisor.  At the time of completing the application, the Registrar will verify the academic information supplied on the form.

C.    Students will submit their completed application to the Registrar to add the course to the students schedules.

1.    Field Supervisors will choose their externs through various processes.  The Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, with the assurances of the Career Planing Center, will administer the campus interviews conducted by selected Field Supervisors.  The Associate Dean for Experiential Learning will notify student externs of their selection and send a copy of the notice to the Registrar.  Students must interview with and be selected by their placement Field Supervisors no later than the first day of semester classes.

D.    Valparaiso University Law School cannot guarantee any student an externship placement, or guarantee students their choice of a particular placement.

IV.    Registration

A.    Registration is conditional upon and subject to acceptance into one of the externship placements.  Registration is limited depending on placement availability.  After the application process is completed, the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, will inform the Registrar of students who have been accepted as externs.  Only students who are selected as externs will be permitted to register for the externship.  Students shall plan to meet with the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning at an Orientation meeting to receive any special instructions and assignments regarding their externships.  Unless informed otherwise, students should make arrangements with the Field Supervisor to begin work during the first week of classes.

B.    Permission to withdraw from an externship requires the written permission of the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning. A student may drop an externship or change the enrolled credits only during the drop-add period in any semester and only with the advance approval of the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.  Discretion rests with the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning to administratively withdraw any student having unexcused absences at the placement or failing to meet with the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning when required.  What constitutes an unexcused absence shall be within the discretion of the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.  Students may add an externship only within the first week of classes and only with the permission of the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.

V.     Requirements

A.    Student externs are required to work at least 45 hours per credit awarded for the externship experience.  For example, for a three credit externship, a student must work 135 hours, or approximately 10 hours per week for the 13 week semester.  The Associate Dean for Experiential Learning may require more hours to be worked than stated in this paragraph. These hours do not include time spent fulfilling the other requirements of the externship such as maintaining a log, work product file, journal, and filing evaluations.

B.    Students may not receive compensation for their work in an externship.  Students may not obtain credit for externship participation at a placement where they are gainfully employed during the externship period.  This also applies to students who qualify and receive the Summer Public Interest Scholarship (SPIS).

C.    Each student shall maintain a daily log in which the student designates the amount of time spent together with a brief description of the activity, i.e., designating the type of case and legal issues the student is exploring (all confidential information shall be redacted).  The daily log shall be submitted periodically to the Field Supervisor for signature.  The Associate Dean for Experiential Learning shall review the student’s daily log at least twice during the course of the semester.

D.    Students shall maintain a file of the work product they produce in the externship and shall submit the file at least twice during the semester for review by the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.  Confidential information shall be redacted as required by the Field Supervisor.

E.    Each student extern shall submit to the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning  an evaluation of the externship placement and the, Field Supervisor, and Associate Dean for Experiential Learning at the close of the externship on a form supplied by the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning .  The student evaluation will not be read by the Field Supervisor until after a grade has been submitted for the course.

F.    As part of the externship, students shall maintain journals that contain reflections and evaluations of the students’ work experience and any other items assigned by the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.  For example, the student should reflect on the lawyer’s role and the student’s reaction to assuming that role, how well or poorly a given activity went, and the student’s challenges in dealing with that activity, and any reflections the student has regarding any activity at the placement.

Judicial externs should reflect additionally on the role of the law clerk, the process of judicial decision-making, and how factual issues are resolved by the court.  Government externs should reflect additionally on the role of government attorneys and how that role differs, if at all, from attorneys in the private sector, how government attorneys exercise their discretion to pursue certain cases and not others, and the student’s observation about the legal system within which the placement operates.  Public interest externs should reflect additionally on the legal system’s effect on the lives of people with low incomes and on access to lawyers for people with low incomes.

The journal entries shall not contain any confidential client or case information.  The journals will be submitted to the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning on a regular basis, as determined by the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.

G.    Each student in a state judicial externship shall submit a final written report at the end of the semester.  The report shall include a general discussion of the nature of the experiences gained by the extern, an analysis of the extern’s experiences in light of his or her legal education, and a critique of the program, i.e., an evaluation of all favorable and unfavorable aspects of the program.

H.    The externship shall have a classroom component if required by the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.

I.    Established and regularized communication shall occur among the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, the Field Supervisor, and the student extern.  The Associate Dean for Experiential Learning shall conduct a site visit at least once during the year.

VI.    Proposals of New Externships

Students may elect to propose a new externship that is not available in the law school’s current offerings. Formal proposal applications are available on Simplicity.  The Law School cannot guarantee any student that their proposal will be approved.

VII.    Code of Professional Responsibility

All students are expected to conform their conduct to the standards of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Judicial Code, as applicable.  Students are prohibited from discussing confidential case information with anyone other than personnel at their placement.

VIII.    Grading Policy

A.    Externships are graded on an S/U basis by the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.  The student’s evaluation shall be based on the time spent and work performed at the placement, and the logs, journals, work product, paper, attendance, content of scheduled meetings with the Director of the Externships Program, and the Field Supervisor’s written evaluation.

B.    The Associate Dean for Experiential Learning may request the Curriculum Committee for leave to offer an externship for a letter grade.