By Alison Kubas
Externships are one of the best ways to gain experience applying the law, outside of the classroom setting, while still earning course credits. When combined with classes, the impact that they have on the ability for a student to understand a legal concept is unbeatable. Externships allow students real world experiences such as appearing in court and interacting with clients while applying what they learned in class. In addition, the networking opportunities provide a great way for students to obtain jobs following graduation.
The current credit limit of only three out-of-classroom credits per semester has forced students to choose between applying for an externship and taking on a Special Research Project (SRP), each of which are worth two or more credits. Due to this limitation, students who wish to do an SRP have found themselves unable to also take on an individual externship. Companies hosting externships have been reluctant to hire students who are not receiving academic credit for unpaid work.
Students have called for a change in this policy and according to Professor Jennifer Mailly, who directs the individual externship program along with Dean Paul Chill, the faculty is well aware of the issues facing students and they hope to resolve them. The administration, said Mailly, recognizes the many benefits of externships and Dean Fisher came to the Law School with the hope of expanding such programs.
A few options have been explored to address students’ concerns. First, the credit limits towards SRPs and individual externships might be separated, so that students can do both in the same semester. This would also allow more total externship credits overall. Second, the out-of-classroom limit could simply be increased for both a single semester and the total amount overall, in order to allow for more experiential opportunities. A third option would be to completely remove the limit and give students the ability to take on as many individual externships as they like, although this option is unlikely.
Despite the proposed changes, Mailly stressed that the reason behind the policy is that the administration wants students to spend time in the classroom to encourage interaction with other students and professors, as well as to ensure that students take the necessary core classes. According to Mailly, if the limit were lifted then there is the possibility that students could end up spending half of a semester or even half of their whole school career off campus.
There is a high probability that the faculty could discuss and vote on a change to the policy in the near future. If you want to share a great externship experience or are interested in voicing a potential solution, now is the time to do it!