The goal of externship placements is to provide students with the opportunity to integrate their classroom experience with practical legal experience. This type of experiential learning provides students with exposure to problem solving in a situational based context and students gain experience working with and observing lawyers and judges in practice.
The summer externship program is intended to provide an experiential learning opportunity for a student who has a demonstrated strong interest in a specific subject and/or geographic area which is not available or accessible during the Fall or Spring semesters. The program is also meant to allow students the opportunity to develop relationships with legal employers in the geographic region where they plan to live upon graduation from law school.
Propose Your Own Externship
The summer externship program is designed to allow students to create an individualized ad-hoc externship for academic credit. Students are encouraged to seek out summer externships with organizations that have attorneys who specialize in the student’s practice area of interest. Students may wish to consult the Career Planning & Development Office and members of the faculty for suggested employers that could provide a specialized field placement.
Please note that if the externship is approved and you enroll, you will pay tuition for the course. Accordingly, before proposing a summer externship, please consider whether you are interested in the work experience or the combined work and academic experience. If you are interested in the work experience only, discuss with the organization the possibility of a paid position or volunteering with the organization. Only consider proposing a summer externship when a paid or volunteer position is not possible.
Placement Eligibility and Evaluation
Proposing a new summer externship is like proposing a new academic course with two components: field work and an opportunity to reflect on that field work through a regularly scheduled class or other meetings with a faculty member. Accordingly, each summer externship application is evaluated in accordance with Penn State Law’s established academic policies and requirements for the receipt of law school academic credit. Also, each proposal is considered on its own merits under current circumstances. Past approval of a summer externship is not authority for, and may not be relied upon, when seeking approval for a summer externship. In short, a prior approval of a summer externship is precedent but does not guarantee the acceptance of a summer externship.
Each application for a summer externship must identify a person who works on the externship site to serve as a field supervisor. Generally, a field supervisor's responsibilities include the following:
- Providing the extern with varied legal work experiences such as researching legal matters and drafting memos, briefs, contract or other legal documents;
- Training the extern to ensure competent performance;
- Meeting regularly with the extern to review and discuss the extern's work and the professional and ethical implications of that work;
- Evaluating the extern mid-summer and at the end of the summer; and
- Submitting a written evaluation to the extern and the Externship Program Coordinator.
Further criteria and factors to be considered when determining the eligibility of a placement for academic credit as a summer externship include the following:
- How well the placement meets the summer externship program’s purpose;
- The field supervisor’s availability and willingness to mentor the student, provide an open learning environment where issues can be discussed, and fulfill the other responsibilities and criteria mentioned above;
- Whether academic credit is required by the organization for participation in its summer externship program;
- Whether the organization pays other law students or is willing to accept volunteers;
- The amount and suitability of substantive legal work available for the student to participate in and observe;
- The availability of opportunities for students to attend legal events such as hearings, depositions, trials, negotiations, closings, meetings, etc.;
- Whether other law schools allow academic credit for their students who work for the organization; and
- The benefits to the student and to the law school from the placement.
Students interested in obtaining approval of a new placement should submit an application to the Externship Program Coordinator, Professor Katherene E. Holtzinger Conner. Please contact the Career Planning & Development office for suggestions on how to approach an employer about a potential summer externship and for a summer externship application.