Externships & Pro-Bono


EXTERNSHIPS/PRO-BONO


  1. Externship Program Guidelines
  2. Pro-Bono

1.  Externship Program Guidelines

I.  Goals & Overview

The Externship Program is designed to provide students with an opportunity to gain practical legal experience as part of their legal education. Two general types of externships are available at the College of Law: Public Service Externships (part-time) and Federal Judicial/Federal Agency Externships (full-time). The overarching goals of the Externship program are consistent with and are designed to serve the goals articulated in the mission statement of the College of Law: “Preparing 21st century lawyers and leaders to serve the public, [and] government, . . . —both locally and globally—while focusing on justice, ethics, professionalism, and service in a diverse, vibrant and respectful community.”

To that end, the Externship Program offers the opportunity to incorporate practice experience with discussion, critical thinking, reflection, and analysis. The purpose of the program is to help students in the following ways:

  1. to develop the art of lawyering, including research, writing, analysis, interviewing, and communication of facts and information;
  2. to identify professional goals and reflect on individual professional development;
  3. to develop sensitivity to issues of professional responsibility, ethical problem solving, and the role of the lawyer in providing access to justice in society; and
  4. to develop awareness of meaningful career opportunities in public interest and governmental settings and to establish relationships in chosen fields of law.

II.  Policies & Requirements

The Public Service and Federal Judicial/Federal Agency Externships require students to perform substantive legal work to receive academic credit. All externships must be unpaid. Additionally, student externs must be supervised at their placement by a lawyer. In addition to supervision at their placement, students are also supervised by a faculty member and are required to enroll in a one-hour course component. The course component includes class meetings, time-keeping assignments, reflective journals, and other assignments to further the experiential learning. The policies and requirements outlined below are designed to ensure a high-quality experience for students as they work toward their educational goals during their externship.

For academic planning purposes, only one externship can be counted toward your total graduation requirement. Further, students may receive no more than 26 total “out of classroom” credits toward graduation. This includes an externship, moot court, law review, independent study, and foreign study. This credit maximum does not include credits earned in the law school clinic. (More complete information is available in the Student Handbook.)

Students interested in any externship opportunity should meet with the Director of the Center for Law and Public Service to discuss the available placement options and eligibility requirements outlined below.

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 A. Externship Placements

Two general types of placements are available for students. First, students can pursue part-time externship opportunities in various Public Service Externships during the summer, fall, or spring terms. Second, students can pursue full-time externship opportunities in either a Federal Judicial or Federal Agency Externship during the fall or spring terms. A brief summary of the placement options is outlined below.

Part-time Public Service Externships may be performed with government offices or agencies, the judiciary, legal aid offices, or other non-profit or public interest organizations performing legal work. Examples of approved part-time Public Service Externships have included placements with public defenders, prosecutors, judges, legal aid offices, general counsel of universities, general counsel of non-profit hospitals, state environmental protection agencies, colleges, legislatures and legislative committees, and other non-profit or public service organizations.

Full-time Federal Judicial Externships may be performed with any federal judge at the district or circuit court level. Full-time Federal Agency Externships may be performed at any approved federal agency. Full-time federal agency sites have included the National Labor Relations Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Please see the Director of the Center for Law and Public Service for a list of approved local sites.

If there is another externship opportunity that a student wants to pursue that is not on the list of approved sites, then the student should contact the Director of the Center for Law and Public Service for approval first, then apply to the office or organization. If students have questions about placements or need advice about finding a site that best fits with their educational goals, then they should contact the Director of the Center for Law and Public Service at (304) 293-8555.

The Externship Program does not include work in the private sector, and no externships in private sector settings will be approved. All placements must be approved by the Director of the Center for Law and Public Service or the Teaching Professor for the course.

B. Field Placement Work and Credit Requirements

Work performed at the field placement for academic credit must be unpaid. Students must have adequate supervision, guidance, and training by a dedicated field supervisor at the site. The field supervisor must be a lawyer. Students may choose from three different externship types:

  1. Full-time Federal Agency Externship during the fall or spring semesters. Externs must work full time (as defined by the site) over the course of the semester to earn 13 credits. Of those 13 credits, 6 are graded and 7 are pass/fail. The graded portion of the course is earned through enrollment in the full-time agency externship course. The pass/fail credits are earned through completing work assignments at the externship site. To qualify for this externship, students must have completed at least one year of law school, submit a letter of recommendation from a law school faculty member recommending the student for the externship, and be in the top 40% of their law school class.
  2. Full-time Federal Judicial Externship during the fall or spring semesters. Full-time judicial externs also earn 13 credits over the course of the semester. Of those 13 credits, 6 are graded and 7 are pass/fail. The graded portion of the course is earned through enrollment in the full-time judicial externship course. The pass/fail credits are earned through completing work assignments at the judicial externship site. To qualify for this externship, students must have completed at least one year of law school, submit a letter of recommendation from a law school faculty member recommending the student for the externship, and be in the top 25% of their law school class.
  3. Part-time Public Service Externship during the summer, fall, or spring terms. Part-time Public Service Externship opportunities are available with a federal agency or a state agency, federal or state judiciary, legal services office, or other non-profit organization. Students may earn a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 6 credits. Of those, 1 is graded and the rest are pass/fail. Students can choose to earn a variable number of pass/fail credits -- between two (2) and five (5) site placement/field work credits during the summer session or during a fall or spring semester. Students will receive one (1) academic credit for every fifty (50) hours of work performed during the chosen academic term. Students are advised to consult with the field placement supervisor to create a suitable work schedule. To be eligible, students must have completed one year of law school and be in good academic standing. Sites may require a higher standard, however.

Placement/Field Work Credits

Total Hours of Work Required

Approx. Hours of Work Per Week

Total Credit Including Course Component

2

100

7

3

3

150

11

4

4

200

14

5

5

250

18

6

C. Externship Class Requirements

Students who are selected for a full-time Federal Agency externship will enroll in Law 655 (the graded course) and in Law 656 for the field-work portion of the externship. Students who are selected for the full-time Federal Judicial externship will enroll in Law 780 (the graded portion of the course) and in Law 780A for the field work portion of the course. Students who enroll in the part-time Public Service Externship course will register for Law 653, which is the one-hour graded course, and Law 654 for the variable number of placement/field work credits.

The externship courses will meet periodically on campus during the semester and, depending on the placement site, other course meetings will be arranged online or through distance-learning technology. During the field placement for each of the externship courses, students will be required to submit the following assignments to successfully complete the course requirements:

  • reflective essays or journals related to field work;
  • a class presentation on a topic that draws upon the externship experience;
  • discussion topics online via TWEN to facilitate student communication and foster experiential learning;
  • bi-weekly time sheets documenting hours and work performed;
  • supervisor evaluations (including a mid-semester and final evaluation); and
  • full-time federal judicial and federal agency externs must write a substantive law-review style paper based upon an issue related to the externship placement and field work.

These assignments are designed to enhance the students’ field experiences and are more fully described in the course syllabi.

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III.  Steps for Registration and Enrollment

A. Registration

Students must attend the externship information/registration session when announced.  If students cannot attend this meeting, they must set up an individual meeting with the Director of the Center for Law and Public Service or the Teaching Professor for the course.  Students interested in the Externship Program must submit a resume, unofficial transcript, cover letter, letter of recommendation (for full-time Federal Judicial or Federal Agency Externships), and a letter stating the name and contact information for the placement (or potential placement if awaiting confirmation.)  Please submit a hard copy of these materials to the Director of the Center for Law and Public Service before the deadline announced each semester.

Upon approval, students will register for the appropriate externship course.

B. Receiving credit

Students will submit weekly timesheets, attend any scheduled class meetings or participate in on-line discussions, and complete all course assignments.

Students must submit the signed Externship Supervisor Agreement available on the class TWEN site.

Students must complete all field placement work in a competent and professional manner in accordance with the relevant Rules of Professional Conduct.

Students must submit a Final Evaluation from their supervisors (unless you are working with the Federal Judiciary).

IV.  Field Placement Supervision

Field placements are asked to identify one person, who must be a lawyer, who will be the student’s primary supervisor and contact person for the externship. The field supervisor at the chosen placement must agree to support the student’s educational goals. While a student will often perform assignments for multiple lawyers at an organization, the externship requires that one person is designated as the field supervisor and mentor for the student. The supervisor and student should meet at least once per week to review assignments and discuss questions. The supervisor will complete a final letter of evaluation to be submitted by the end of the semester.

Students are asked to coordinate with their field placement supervisors to complete the following tasks:

  • meet with the field placement supervisor at the beginning of the placement to discuss the student’s learning goals during the placement;

  • meet with the supervisor weekly to review and evaluate assignments, overall performance, and general issues; and

  • set up a final evaluation exit meeting to obtain a final evaluation form from the field supervisor and submit it to the Teaching Professor for the course.  The final evaluation form must also include a certification of hours from the Field Placement Supervisor.


2.  Pro-Bono

The Center for Law and Public Service promotes public service opportunities for law students, including opportunities for pro bono work. The term “pro bono” means “for the public good.” In the legal profession, pro bono work refers to work that is performed voluntarily and free of charge.   Pro bono service is the responsibility of all members of the legal profession. WVU’s pro bono program allows law students to begin pro bono service now and encourages students to develop a lifelong commitment to pro bono work.

The WVU College of Law pro bono program partners with legal services organizations and community agencies to provide opportunities for law students to serve those in need.   Pro bono projects will be designed to aid individuals or families of limited means; charitable, community and governmental organizations who provide assistance to those of limited means; and activities for improving the law, the legal system, or the legal profession. Pro bono work may not be for credit and will not include work done for a clinic or externship.   All pro bono work must be supervised by a licensed attorney and will be tracked by the Center for Law and Public Service.

For more information about pro bono opportunities and guidelines, see the Pro Bono Handbook. If you have questions about or suggestions for a pro bono project, please see Jennifer Powell, Director of the Center for Law and Public Service.

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