Through an externship, students work out-in-the-field at a legal office, handling real legal work under the supervision of an attorney mentor. Boston’s vibrant legal community offers a vast array of placements in countless practice areas. Students have recently worked at organizations that handle affordable housing, education, microfinance, IP, health law, biotech, and environmental law, to name a few.
Students may work with one of BU Law’s many partnering organizations, or students are welcome to cultivate a new placement. Placements may be at a nonprofit, with a government agency or state legislator, with a judge, in a corporate legal department, or at a small/mid-size law firm. All work must be performed under the direct supervision of an attorney. Placements may be paid or unpaid.
Each student’s field experience is supported by a required seminar. An externship therefore consists of a pair of courses: the fieldwork (P/F) and the academic component (graded). Please see below for more information about credits and the seminar options.
Please note that students may not participate in both a clinic and an externship during the same semester.
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.
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 working until the last week of classes. Students may not count hours spent at the placement before the semester begins. Students receive variable credits (P/F), 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.
Each of our seminar offerings is designed to complement and support each student’s field experience.
Corporate Counsel Externship (Offered fall and spring, 2 cr.) – Dedicated to exposing students to the role and work of in-house counsel for for-profit and nonprofit corporations in an array of global industries, as well as the business and lawyering skills essential to representing the internal corporate client. The seminar covers the modern role of in-house counsel; becoming a trusted advisor to the client; learning business; communicating effectively in a business setting; collaborating with a legal team; and solving problems to advance the client’s strategic objectives. This seminar is required for students working at corporate counsel placements. For general information and application logistics for fall 2018, view the PDF.
Externship: Learning From Practice (Offered 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 are on their second externship or have participated in a clinic.
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. Students must receive permission from the externship program office. Please contact Associate Director Adrienne Smith.
Judicial Externship (Offered fall and spring, 1 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.
Legal Externship (Offered fall and spring, 3 cr.) – Students work at all types of placements, with an emphasis on government and legal services placements. Recent placements include Boston Public Schools, the U.S. Attorney’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.
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. This seminar is required for students working at legislative placements.
Small/Mid-Size Law Firm Externship (Offered fall and spring, 2 cr.) – This course focuses on a range of topics unique to legal practice in small and mid-sized law firms, with a particular emphasis on developing the skills necessary for successful lawyering in this setting. Students will gain a foundational knowledge of smaller firms and learn how to cultivate mentors, seek and respond to feedback, obtain challenging assignments, and measure progress on professional development goals. This seminar is required for students working at small/mid-size law firm placements.
How to Apply
Each fall and spring, the Externship Program solicits applications from students for participation the following semester. After applying, students work with an externship advisor to identify the placements that are the best fit depending on that student’s individual career and academic interests. Students will also be matched with an externship seminar. Once suitable placements are identified, students are responsible for submitting applications to prospective employers and taking other steps necessary to secure positions, such as interviewing and following-up with prospective employers. Fortunately, there are many placements in the Boston area and plenty of spots to go around.
For a list of recent placements and partnering organizations, please click here.
Students may also secure an externship through their networking and research, including via postings on Symplicity. However, the externship seminars have caps and priority is given to students who have formally applied to the Externship Program. If you are in the process of securing an externship on your own, please contact the Externship Program as soon as possible to discuss the seminar options.
General questions; government, non-profit and judicial externships; summer externships; Semester-in-Practice: Adrienne Smith; Associate Director of Experiential Education
Corporate counsel externships: Cecily Banks; Director, Corporate Counsel Externships
Legislative externships: Sean Kealy; Clinical Associate Professor
Small/mid-size law firm externships: Sheila Bridges; Director, Small/Mid-Size Law Firm Externships
For International Students
For International Students: Students who are working in the United States over the summer or during the semester, for whom the US is not their country of origin, may receive academic credit for writing a paper. For the summer, 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.