Gain legal skills working with attorney mentors.

Through an externship, students gain valuable lawyering skills by working with attorney mentors at a legal office. The options are endless: recent students have worked in areas including civil rights, education, microfinance, IP, venture capital, and environmental law, to name a few.  

The educational objectives of the program are to help students develop their legal skills and substantive knowledge of the law; develop the ability to solve legal problems in real-life situations; learn the day-to-day of legal practice, generally and at the specific placement; and learn to engage in reflective practice, so they can improve for the future.

An externship consists of a weekly seminar and a field experience. Students may work at a nonprofit organization, a government agency, for a judge, or in a corporate legal department. Students may work at a law firm, but only on pro bono projects. All work must be performed under the direct supervision of an attorney. Placements may be paid or unpaid.


Legal Externship (Offered fall and spring, 3 cr.) – BU Law’s “catch-all” externship where students work at all types of placements. Recent placements include Dimagi, BU General Counsel’s Office, Victim Rights Law Center, and the SEC, to name a few. The seminar is an ethics class that examines legal practice and the ethics of lawyering. The seminar satisfies BU Law’s professional responsibility requirement.

Externship: Learning From Practice (Offered fall and spring, 1 cr.) – For students working at all types of placements. The weekly seminar explores the ways in which lawyers (and externs) learn from practice and develop skills on the job.  This seminar is a good option for students who have already satisfied professional responsibility.

Corporate Counsel Externship (Offered fall and spring, 2 cr.) – Dedicated to exposing students to the role and work on in-house corporate counsel, as well as the transnational and business lawyering skills essential to corporate and business law practice.

Health Law Externship (Offered spring only, 1 cr.) – For students working with health care institutions, biotech firms, or health advocacy nonprofits. The seminar adds to BU Law’s robust Health Law offerings by examining health law issues as they pertain to practice, as well as the challenges of working in a non-profit environment.

Judicial Externship (Offered fall and spring, 3 cr.) – Students immerse themselves in a research- and writing-intensive experience working for a judge. Placements are at a range of courts: trial and appellate, state and federal, and at specialty courts such as Probate & Family Court. The seminar explores topics related to the judiciary, such as judicial ethics, judicial decision-making, specialty courts, and ADR.  The seminar is an ethics course that satisfies BU Law’s professional responsibility requirement.

Legislative Externship (Offered fall on alternate years, and every spring, 3 cr.)  Students learn about the lawmaking process on Beacon Hill by working  for a Massachusetts state legislator. Students may draft legislation, evaluate testimony, attend meetings with legislators and staff, observe legislative strategy sessions and negotiations, attend floor debates and committee meetings, and research questions of law and faculty for proposed legislation. Students can work on general issues or focus in the following areas: Environmental Law, Health Law, and Tax & Business.

Independent Proposal Externship (Offered fall and spring, 2 cr.) – Under this option, in lieu of a seminar, students write a 15–20 page paper and submit seven bi-weekly journals (4–6 pages each), under the guidance of a faculty supervisor. The 2 credits count towards the 3-credit cap on independent study credits as well as the 16-credit cap on non-GPA credits. Interested students should first contact Associate Director Adrienne Smith. Students will then line up a faculty sponsor. Students should refer prospective faculty sponsors to the Faculty Sponsor Agreement, which outlines the sponsor’s responsibilities.

Affordable Housing Externship (Offered fall only)  – An externship opportunity available for students taking Affordable Housing Law. Students receive 3 credits for 150 hours of fieldwork at a public or non-profit housing and community development agency.

Fieldwork Credit Information

The fieldwork component of an externship is the time spent at the legal organization itself. The fieldwork begins the first week of classes and students commit to work through the last week of classes. Students receive variable credits (pass/fail), determined as follows:

  • 3 credits = 150 hours total (avg. 12 hrs/wk)
  • 4 credits = 200 hours total (avg. 16 hrs/wk)
  • 5 credits = 250 hours total (avg. 20 hrs/wk)
  • 6 credits = 300 hours total (avg. 24 hrs/wk)
  • 7 credits = 350 hours total (avg. 28 hrs/wk)
  • 8 credits = 400 hours total (avg. 32 hrs/wk)
  • 9 credits = 450 hours total (avg. 36 hrs/wk)

Students select their fieldwork credits based on their overall class schedule, and in consultation with their fieldwork supervisors. Some placements require students to work a minimum number of hours per week, such as 16 or 20.

Please note that the fieldwork component of the externship counts towards the 16-credit cap on non-GPA credits.

Securing a Field Placement

Built into the structure of this program is the practical experience of preparing for and partaking in a job search. Students are expected to conduct their own placement search. Many placements post externship positions on Symplicity.  The Office of Experiential Education provides resources to help students identify good placements based on their individual interests.  A list of recent placements can be found here.

For International Students

For International Students: Students who are working in the United States over the summer, for whom the US is not their country of origin, may receive academic credit for writing a paper. Students must pay extra tuition to receive the summer credit. If you are interested, please contact Adrienne Smith. Also speak with your ISSO counselor.

For more information, click here.