Many students are interested in externships that provide the opportunity to work in a law setting outside the law school. The externship courses, provided through the Legal Aid Clinic, place students in a variety of work places that meet their particular educational goals. Students can enroll in local, part-time externships, or immerse themselves in a practice setting.
“The externship provided me the opportunity to learn in an entirely different way from what I ever could have experienced in the classroom. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to have experienced, talented attorneys agree to have you work for them in exchange for the insight they can provide on your work – a true mentorship.” – Anonymous student
The Full Term Externship allows students to craft a unique educational experience. Each student locates a setting that will advance his or her educational goals. These can include the following areas: not-for-profit sector, governmental agencies, in-house counsel offices in media or sports, or judicial clerkships. In prior years, students have worked in a wide variety of settings, such as:
State and federal prosecutors’ offices and public defender offices
United States Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the NLRB, the EEOC, the Office of Education
United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, and office of the High Commissioner for Refugees
ACLU, the Northwest Women’s Law Center, South Brooklyn Legal Services and other legal aid offices, Center for Constitutional Rights, Asian Law Caucus, National Conference of American Indians, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, NAACP
AFL-CIO and the Screen Actors Guild
Clerks for trial court and appellate judges Offices of United States senators and Congressional committee offices
In-house counsel offices at News Corp., Fox News, Harper and Collins, Warner Brothers Studios, and the NFL Management Group
Students’ experiences differ, depending on the nature of the placement. However, in the past students have participated in the following experiences:
Representation of clients in hearings and trials
Legal research and writing
Pre-trial and trial activities
Attendance at policy and staff meetings
Attendance at state and federal legislative hearings
Drafting of discovery devices, motions, briefs, and pleadings; legislative proposals; policy memoranda; contracts and other business documents
Direct interactions with clients and opposing parties
Some students in prosecutor and public defender offices, as well as legal aid offices, have been admitted to practice, and have done motion arguments, conferences, and trials. In post-externship evaluations, students frequently commented that they became an integral part of the office because they were there full time. This allowed students to experience a range of activities that would not be available to them otherwise.
“The full-semester externship has been an incredible experience for me. The level of responsibility I had as an ‘attorney’ alone was a valuable experience and that was only one small aspect of the experience as a whole.” – Anonymous student’s course evaluation comment
During the semester, students participate in a weekly web based discussion board with the faculty member and other students enrolled in the Full Term Externship. They also write weekly, reflective journal entries that are shared with the instructor. Normally, the instructor visits the student at his or her placement during the semester, and receives evaluations from the placement site supervisors. All of these activities are designed to assure that the students’ experiences further the students’ goals and legal education.
The Judicial Externship This course provides the student with the opportunity to learn about judges, the judicial decision-making process, and the justice system in general, while working as a clerk, one or two days a week, in one of a wide range of New York state and federal trial and appellate judge’s chambers. The course is highly recommended for the student (whether J.D. or LL.M. student) who wishes to better understand the unique perspective of a trial or appellate court judge.
“Great perspective on the way a judge thinks; should be mandatory for trial lawyers.” – Anonymous student’s course evaluation comment
The student’s work at the court placement includes: observation in court and in chambers, discussions with the judge and other staff, and research and writing on pending litigation, including the occasional drafting of actual court opinions.
“I learned more about the practice’ of law in this course than all my other courses combined.” – Anonymous student’s course evaluation comment
While the work at each student’s placement is the primary focus of the course, this is supplemented by a classroom component that includes: the sharing of experiences from the various placements, reflective journals, and discussions and presentations by faculty and students on a wide variety of topics related to the justice system. The class also takes occasional “field trips” to sites chosen by the students.
“Incredible course and I gained an amazing perspective into the judicial mind and decision making process.” – Anonymous student’s course evaluation comment
Students interested in children’s rights have found the Law Guardian Externship to offer important insights into the representation of children in Family Court. In this externship, students work in the Law Guardian Office, which provides representation to children in abuse and neglect, custody, juvenile delinquency and Persons In Need of Supervision (PINS) cases.
While at the placement, students will be able to observe and actively be involved with a number of activities. This includes the following activities:
Representing children in court
Interacting with clients, their parents, social service providers, foster parents, and other individuals who are involved in the children’s lives
Observing social service team meetings for Family Treatment Court
Observing Family Court proceedings
Visiting facilities that provide social and mental health services to children, and facilities to which children are sent, when they have been adjudicated as juvenile delinquents
Performing legal and factual research
Drafting motions, affidavits, answers, discovery devices, and legal memoranda
Exploring with the staff attorneys the many and varied issues facing lawyers who represent children
Students work at the Law Guardian Office approximately 12 hours weekly. In addition, they submit journals to the faculty instructor, and meet with the instructor on a bi-weekly basis. Each meeting focuses on a different issue of importance to children and parents. Readings for the meetings include statutes, cases, articles and portions of books.
If you are interested in children’s rights, the Law Guardian Externship will give you an in-depth understanding and exposure to the experiences of children in the juvenile and family legal system.
For students interested in politics, policy issues, legislation and the legislative process, the Legislative Externship offers important insights in these areas as well as an opportunity to work in a less traditional legal setting. In this externship, students work with Assemblymember Barbara Lifton and other members of her staff. Students will be involved in researching areas for possible legislative action, drafting legislation and tracking legislation for constituents, but generally will not be involved in mundane constituent service requests.
During the externship, students gain experience in:
Using one’s knowledge of the law and legal research to evaluate legislative proposals and advise a legislator regarding various proposals
Drafting memoranda and legislation
Examining various approaches for evaluating policy issues and remedying problems which have been identified
Presenting legal information and knowledge to a lay person in a less traditional setting
“It was interesting to see what goes on behind making and drafting a law, and the politics involved.” – Anonymous student’s course evaluation comment
On average students spend 12 hours per week working on projects for the externship. The classroom component of the course is provided by bi-weekly meetings with the instructor. Students also submit journals, reflecting on their work and experiences during the externship.
For students interested in providing legal assistance to indigent clients in civil matters with the opportunity to observe the workings of a legal services office, the Neighborhood Legal Services Externship is the perfect match. In this externship, students work under the guidance of the attorneys, representing clients of the Ithaca office of Legal Assistance of Western New York (LAWNY). Students are involved in the full range of client representation including:
Interviewing and counseling clients
Gathering factual information, interviewing witnesses, and evaluating facts
Case planning, factual investigation and evaluation of facts
Legal research and writing
Administrative hearing advocacy
“A very interesting and extremely practical course with a wide range of possible case types to work on!” – Anonymous student’s course evaluation comment
Students spend between 12 and 15 hours weekly at the Neighborhood Legal Services Office. The classroom component of the course is provided by the Clinical Skills classes and occasional meetings with the instructor. Students also submit journals, reflecting on their work and experiences during the externship.
“Not only did I learn firsthand what it is like to work as a law guardian, but I learned a lot about the foster care system, the interaction of the different agencies, counselors and others who work with these children, and personally about what it is like to interact with children as clients.” – Anonymous student