Skills Training

Externship Program

The externship program offers students an opportunity to develop the skills necessary to bridge the gap between law school and law practice. Through participation in the externship program, students prepare for “effective, ethical and responsible participation in the legal profession” (ABA Std. 301) by applying the core concepts learned in law school courses to the challenges presented in the actual practice of law.

The externship program provides students the opportunity to work under the supervision of a lawyer or judge in a public interest group, government agency, prosecutor or public defender office or a non-for-profit organization, or for an attorney in private practice so long as the student is assisting only with pro bono work performed by that attorney, for such purposes as:

  1. Enhancing their legal research and writing skills
  2. Taking part in and observing law practice or judicial decision making
  3. Using concepts and skills learned in regular law school classes
  4. Appearing before courts and administrative agencies under Missouri Supreme Court Rule 13
  5. Understanding the requirements of compliance with the rules of professional responsibility
  6. Considering the difficult human and ethical problems that face modern lawyers

Program Structure

Pre-requisites

Only students who have completed their first year of law school and are in good academic standing can register for the externship course.

Credits

  • Externship opportunities are available during the fall semester, spring semester, and summer session.
  • Students are limited to a total of six hours of externship credit, graded S/U. Credit earned for the landlord/tenant practicum counts as externship credit for purpose of this maximum number of permitted credits.
  • To earn three credits, students must work for a total of 150 hours at their placement site. To earn two credits, students must work a total of 100 hours at their placement site.
  • Students can earn no fewer than two and no more than three externship credits during any one semester or summer session.

Placement

To receive externship credit, a student must arrange a placement with a public interest group, non-profit organization, prosecutor or defender office, federal or state agency, or court. The student must also identify an attorney who works for the organization and who has agreed to be the student’s supervisor. Information about placements can be found on SAGE and through the Career Development Office.

Ordinarily, students cannot receive externship credit for working at private law firms. However, a student can serve as an extern for an attorney in private practice so long as the student is assisting only with pro bono work performed by that attorney. Such placements must be approved in advance by the law school.

In order to preserve the integrity of the externship program and ensure the student’s experience is primarily a learning one, students cannot be paid by or otherwise receive compensation directly from the externship employer in return for their work as an extern. However, a student may receive a grant, fellowship, stipend, scholarship, or loan from a third-party, non-profit organization to help fund the student’s work at the placement site, including MU Law Shortridge Loans, PILI Internships, various ABA Fellowships, and Equal Justice Works Americorp Fellowships, and still participate in the externship program. The Assistant Dean of Career Development will determine whether a particular source of funds falls within the parameters of what is permissible for a student enrolled in the externship program to receive.

Classroom Component

The classroom component of the course is intended to help students focus on fundamental lawyering skills (as identified by the MacCrate Report and Carnegie Report), identify the skills they want to develop, and consider strategies for developing these skills during their Externship placement and later throughout their legal careers.

In addition to working at the placement site, to receive credit for the externship course, a student must complete additional assignments, which may include all or some of the following:

  • Attend two class meetings at the beginning of the course and five class meetings during the course. In the fall and spring semesters, the two initial class meetings will take place at the regularly scheduled course time. For the summer session, the two initial class meetings will be scheduled at the end of the spring semester. The remaining five class meetings will be scheduled during the summer.
  • Read all required assignments. In addition to supplemental reading, students who have not previously received externship credit will read selections from Learning from Practice: A Text for Experiential Legal Education. Students who previously received externship credit will develop a reading list for the course that includes professional literature in the relevant field of law. Both the field placement supervisor and the course professor must approve the student’s reading list.
  • Complete a skills assessment exercise.
  • Write a four- to five-page memo using information discussed in class and insights gained from the readings to analyze a hypothetical fact pattern.
  • Establish a list of goals and activities (including observations and readings) for the externship. To receive credit for a second externship, the student must establish goals and activities that are significantly more challenging than those selected for the first externship.
  • Maintain and turn in accurate time sheets.
  • Schedule a conference to discuss the placement with the professor.
  • Keep a journal of reflections on the placement experiences (approximately two pages each week).
  • Write a summary memo that briefly outlines the work the student did at the placement site, describes the positive and negative aspects of the placement, and evaluates the student’s success in achieving his or her goals.
  • Complete an Evaluation of Supervisor form.
  • At the conclusion of the placement, conduct an exit interview with his or her supervisor to discuss the extent to which the student achieved his or her goals.

In addition to the above, before beginning their externship placement, any student who has not taken and is not concurrently enrolled in Professional Responsibility must complete an exercise to demonstrate familiarity with the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility most likely to arise during the externship.