Externship standards

Approved by the Faculty of Wayne State University Law School, November 19, 2013
Amended on May 5, 2015

Goals – In general

Externships help externs develop professional skills, values, and judgment, learn about professionalism, the practice of law, and the legal system, and become reflective practitioners with the capacity for self-directed professional growth.

Goals – Specific types of externships

  • Corporate Counsel Externships: Corporate counsel externs learn about the roles, duties, and ethical responsibilities of in-house counsel and substantive issues encountered in an in-house legal department. Corporate counsel externs develop research, writing, and analysis skills, legal drafting skills, oral communication skills, law practice management skills, and the ability to learn from experience.
  • Criminal Justice Externships: Criminal justice externs learn about the roles and responsibilities of criminal prosecutors and defenders, the judicial process in criminal cases, and strategic and ethical issues in criminal prosecution and defense. Criminal justice externs develop advocacy skills, legal drafting skills, law practice management skills, the ability to recognize and resolve strategic and ethical dilemmas, and the ability to learn from experience.
  • Judicial Externships: Judicial externs learn about the roles and responsibilities of judges and judicial clerks, judicial decision-making, and effective advocacy. Judicial externs develop research, writing, and analysis skills, legal drafting skills, oral communication skills, law practice management skills, and the ability to learn from experience.
  • Public Interest Externships: Public interest externs learn about the roles and responsibilities of public interest lawyers, strategic and ethical dimensions of public interest practice, and effective advocacy. Public interest externs develop interviewing and counseling skills, legal drafting skills, oral communication skills, law practice management skills, and the ability to learn from experience.
  • Advanced Externship: Advanced externs continue expanding their skills and progress beyond the training they received in their first field placement. Advanced externs refocus their personal goals, engage regularly in more in-depth reflection on these new goals and learning experiences, and guide the externship experience to fulfill these new goals to ensure that knowledge and skills advance substantially.

Methods – In general

  • Fieldwork: Externs work in legal settings that have been approved by the faculty, under the general direction and supervision of judges or attorneys who have been approved by the director of externship programs ("the director"). Externs perform tasks similar to those performed by entry-level attorneys. Externs observe the day-to-day activities of legal professionals. Externs discuss and analyze their fieldwork observations and experiences with supervising judges or attorneys.
  • Class meetings: Each type of externship has a two-credit companion colloquium that externs must take and successfully complete in the same semester as their fieldwork. Substantial class time will be devoted to professional skills instruction and to facilitated discussion and analysis of externs' fieldwork observations and experiences. There is no class component for the Advanced Externship. In lieu of a class component, advanced externs are required to meet with the director or other faculty supervisor a minimum of three times during the semester.
  • Reflective journals: Each extern is required to maintain a journal that describes and analyzes his or her fieldwork observations and experiences. Externs are instructed not to discuss confidential information in their journals. Journals are not required in the Advanced Externship course. Externs are required to draft reflective memos that analyze the fieldwork experience.

Field placements

  • Location: All field placements must be located within 180 miles driving distance of the Law School. If a field placement has multiple offices, the office where the extern will do most of his or her work must be within 180 miles driving distance of the Law School.
  • Corporate Counsel Externships: Corporate counsel externs must work in the corporate counsel office of a nonprofit or for-profit entity that the faculty has approved to serve as a field placement. Field placements generally should employ at least three attorneys; if a field placement has multiple offices, at least one of those attorneys must be based in the office where the extern will do most of his or her work. Before recommending that a corporate counsel office be approved to serve as a field placement, the director will send the office's chief executive officer or managing attorney a statement of course goals, methods, and policies that includes the relevant portions of this document. The director will follow up with a telephone call or site visit to discuss that statement and answer questions. The director will obtain written confirmation that the office agrees to abide by the policies discussed in the statement. In addition, the director will obtain input from an independent advisory committee.
  • Criminal Justice Externships: Criminal justice externs must work for a prosecutor or defender's office that the faculty has approved to serve as a field placement. Field placements generally should employ at least three attorneys; if a field placement has multiple offices, at least one of those attorneys must be based in the office where the extern will do most of his or her work. Before recommending that a prosecutor or defender's office be approved to serve as a field placement, the director will send the office's chief executive officer or managing attorney a statement of course goals, methods, and policies that includes the relevant portions of this document. The director will follow up with a telephone call or site visit to discuss that statement and answer questions. The director will obtain written confirmation that the office agrees to abide by the policies discussed in the statement. In addition, the director will obtain input from an independent advisory committee.
  • Judicial Externships: Judicial externs may work in judicial chambers at any federal court, the Michigan Supreme Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals or the Michigan Circuit Courts.
  • Public Interest Externships: Public interest externs must work for a public interest organization, government agency or public interest law firm that the faculty has approved to serve as a field placement. Field placements generally should employ at least three attorneys. If a field placement has multiple offices, at least one of those attorneys must be based in the office where the extern will do most of his or her work. Before recommending that a public interest organization, government agency or public interest law firm be approved to serve as a field placement, the director will send the entity's chief executive officer or managing attorney a statement of course goals, methods, and policies that includes the relevant portions of this document. The director will follow up with a telephone call or site visit to discuss that statement and answer questions. The director will obtain written confirmation that the entity agrees to abide by the policies discussed in the statement. In addition, the director will obtain input from an independent advisory committee.
  • Independent Advisory Committee: The director will create an independent advisory committee composed of judges, corporate counsel attorneys, prosecutors, defenders and public interest lawyers who are likely to be familiar with the work and reputation of entities and agencies of potential field placements. The advisory committee will meet regularly, by phone and in person, to provide input on proposed field placements and field supervisors and offer guidance on program direction and structure.
  • Approval: The director will recommend that the faculty approve an office or entity to serve as a field placement only if the director determines that the office or entity is willing and able to provide a high-quality educational experience to externs. The experiential education committee will review the director's recommendation and notify the faculty if it recommends approval. The committee's recommendation will be deemed approved without faculty action unless, within five business days, four faculty members entitled to vote request in writing that the matter be considered at a faculty meeting.
  • Periodic review: The director will review field placements near the end of their first year participating in the program and on a regularly set schedule thereafter. The director may withdraw approval of an office or entity to serve as a field placement if the director determines that the office or entity has failed substantially to follow applicable course policies, or that the office or entity is unwilling or unable to provide a high-quality educational experience to externs.
  • Number of externs: No more than four externs will be approved in a single semester to work in the same unit of a prosecutor or defender's office, a corporate counsel office, judicial chambers, or office of a public interest organization, government agency or public interest law firm.

Field supervisors

Externs must work under the general direction and supervision of a judge or attorney who the Director has approved to serve as a field supervisor.

Qualifications

  • Corporate Counsel Externships: Field supervisors must be attorneys with three years of corporate counsel or in-house experience who are members in good standing of the State Bar of Michigan or admitted to the highest court of another state.
  • Criminal Justice Externships: Field supervisors must be attorneys with three years of prosecutorial or criminal defense experience who are members in good standing of the State Bar of Michigan or admitted to the highest court of another state.
  • Judicial Externships: Field supervisors must be judges or judicial clerks. Judges who serve as field supervisors must have one year of experience on the bench; judicial clerks must have one year of judicial clerkship experience, and be members in good standing of the State Bar of Michigan or the highest court of another state.
  • Public Interest Externships: Field supervisors must be attorneys with three years of law practice experience, including one year of public interest practice experience, who are members in good standing of the State Bar of Michigan or admitted to the highest court of another state.

Responsibilities

Field supervisors should regularly meet with externs, and should assume overall responsibility for ensuring that externs are assigned tasks and provided opportunities, guidance and feedback that will help them achieve program and course goals. While field supervisors may delegate responsibility for directing and supervising externs' work on individual projects, field supervisors should ensure that externs receive meaningful guidance and feedback regarding their work, and are engaged in substantial discussion and analysis of all significant events that they observe.

Supervision guidelines

Externs generally should be assigned tasks similar to those performed by entry-level attorneys at their field placements. Clerical duties, such as photocopying, filing or completing forms that do not require the exercise of professional judgment, should be only a small part of an extern's work. Passive observation likewise should be only a small part of the experience.

  • Externs should receive guidance toward the practice of law in the best traditions of the profession. To this end, field supervisors and other attorneys supervising the extern's work should not merely request a work product, but should also provide an explanation of the legal issues, their context, the goals, ethical implications and the means of addressing and resolving the issues.
  • Substantial guidance of externs may be required, not only with regard to substantive law, but also with regard to research, writing and other professional skills. Patience will be called for, and criticisms and suggestions for improvement will often be appropriate. As the skills of externs improve, their responsibilities should also be increased.
  • Externs are expected to benefit from the examples set in the office with regard to matters that experienced lawyers take for granted, such as proper attire, decorum, civility, punctuality, timely performance of assigned tasks, attention to detail, ethical behavior and the pursuit of excellence.
  • Field supervisors should be responsible for no more externs than they can properly supervise, ordinarily no more than four, including those from other law schools.
  • Field supervisors should view externs not as transient sources of free, albeit inexperienced, labor, but as fledgling lawyers who deserve the type of mentoring that is given in a permanent, full-time placement. This mentoring is an invaluable service to the externs, the Law School, and the profession. Externs should be aware of the effort and expertise being devoted to them and offer their best efforts in return.
  • Field supervisors are encouraged to confer whenever necessary with the director of externship programs or course instructor about the extern's progress or the externship program.

Supervision guidelines – Specific types of externships

  • Corporate Counsel Externships: Corporate counsel externs should be given substantial opportunities to develop research, writing, and analysis skills, legal drafting skills, oral communication skills and law practice management skills.
  • Criminal Justice Externships: Criminal justice externs should be given substantial opportunities to develop advocacy skills, legal drafting skills, law practice management skills and the ability to recognize and resolve strategic and ethical dilemmas.
  • Judicial Externships: Judicial externs should be given substantial opportunities to develop research, writing, and analysis skills, legal drafting skills, oral communication skills and law practice management skills. 
  • Public Interest Externships: Public interest externs should be given substantial opportunities to develop interviewing and counseling skills, legal drafting skills, oral communication skills and law practice management skills.

Fee-generating cases

Externs should not be assigned or allowed to work on fee-generating matters. Fee-generating matters are matters where clients or third parties other than the field placement itself pay or are expected to pay an hourly, flat or contingent fee for services. They do not include fee-shifting matters where fees only may be obtained from the opposing party; however, field placements should not seek fees for externs' work in fee-shifting matters.

Political or judicial campaigns

Externs should not be assigned or allowed to work on political or judicial campaigns.

Evaluation of externs

Field supervisors are expected to evaluate externs at mid-semester and at the end of the semester, using evaluation forms provided by the Law School. Field supervisors should meet with externs to discuss these evaluations.

Approval

Before approving a judge or attorney to serve as a field supervisor, the director will send him or her a statement of course goals, methods, and policies that includes the relevant portions of this document. The director will follow up with a phone call or site visit to discuss that statement and answer questions. The director will obtain a copy of the judge or attorney's resume, along with written confirmation that he or she has read and agrees to abide by the policies discussed in the statement. The director will approve a judge or attorney to serve as a field supervisor only if the director determines that he or she is willing and able to provide a high-quality educational experience to externs.

Training and monitoring

The director will make available reference and training materials for field supervisors and organize training sessions as needed or requested. In addition, the director will send field supervisors a statement of course goals, methods and policies at the beginning of any semester in which externs will be working under their supervision. The director will conduct a site visit during each field supervisor's first semester participating in the program. The director will conduct additional site visits or speak with field supervisors by telephone on a regular basis.

Evaluations and periodic review

Externs will evaluate field supervisors at the end of the semester using evaluation forms provided by the Law School. The director will review these evaluations shortly after receipt and review field supervisors near the end of their first year participating in the program and at least once every three years thereafter. The director may withdraw approval of a judge or attorney to serve as a field supervisor if the director determines that he or she has failed substantially to follow course policies, or that he or she is unwilling or unable to provide a high-quality educational experience to externs.

Fieldwork

  • Time commitment: Externs are required to perform 150 hours of fieldwork. Field supervisors may limit externship offers to students who are willing to work more than 150 hours, but should not require or allow externs who are full-time students to work more than twenty hours per week in the fall or winter terms.
  • Beginning and end date: In the fall and winter semesters, externs may begin their fieldwork no sooner than one week before the first day of the semester, and no later than two weeks after the first day of the semester. In the summer semester, externs may begin their fieldwork no sooner than one week before the first day of the semester, and no later than one week after the first day of the semester. Externs generally are expected to spread their fieldwork evenly over thirteen weeks in the fall and winter terms, over ten weeks in the summer term. However, with the consent of the director, externs may complete their fieldwork in fewer or more weeks.
  • Location: To assure proper supervision, externs normally should perform their work at the office where the field supervisor is based, or other locations where attorneys are available to supervise their work. If a project requires an extern to spend extended time elsewhere, regular and frequent communication should take place between the extern and the person supervising his or her work on that project.
  • Time Logs: All externs are required to document their fieldwork through detailed, contemporaneous time logs. Time logs should be reviewed and signed by the field supervisor and submitted to the course instructor on a weekly basis.
  • Compensation: All externs may accept reimbursement for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses related to their fieldwork, such as parking at the field placement. Students enrolled in the externship practica may not receive compensation for their field work.

Externs

Pre-requisites

Externs must have completed thirty law school credits, with passing grades in all first-year courses for which grades have been assigned, be in good academic standing, and have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or higher (2.33 for J.D. students who have not yet received thirty credits of grades, 3.0 for LL.M. students).  Professional Responsibility and the Legal Profession (LEX 6800) is a pre- or co-requisite for all externships. Corporations (LEX 7156) is a pre-requisite for corporate counsel externships. Advanced Externship requires the extern to be in good academic standing and to have successfully completed a Corporate Counsel, Criminal Justice, Judicial or Public Interest Externship Colloquia.

Applying for externships

  • Corporate Counsel Externships: The Law School assists externs in the application process. Students interested in corporate counsel externships should apply directly to the director by submitting a cover letter, resume and writing sample by the posted deadline.
  • Criminal Justice, Judicial and Public Interest and Advanced Externships: The Law School does not "place" externs with field placements or field supervisors students interested in externships should apply directly to field supervisors by sending a cover letter, resume and writing sample. A list of approved field placements and field supervisors is on the Law School's website.
  • Advanced Externship: A student who wishes to enroll in the Advanced Externship course should submit a written memo to the director of clinical education explaining: (1) what his/her learning objectives are, and how they differ from those for the first externship; and (2) why these learning objectives cannot be met by existing clinical or experiential learning course opportunities.

Enrollment

Enrollment in externship colloquia typically is limited to sixteen externs per section. Enrollment limits in the Advanced Externship will be set by the director of clinical education on a semester-by-semester basis. Registration requires prior approval from the director. Students enrolled in an externship colloquium or advanced externship may not take another externship course or a clinic in the same semester.

Evaluation

Each extern is required to complete a detailed self-evaluation, course evaluation, and evaluation of his or her field placement and field supervisor at the end of the semester, using forms provided by the Law School.

Credits and grading

All students must register for the appropriate two-credit externship colloquium, which is letter-graded. Students may also register for the corresponding externship practica, two-credit courses graded on an Honors-Pass-Low Pass-No Credit basis. Students enrolled in the J.D. program may earn up to eight credits total through externships practica and externship colloquia, up to fourteen credits total through externship practica, externship colloquia and clinics. Students enrolled in LL.M. programs may only earn four credits through externship practica and externship colloquia. Advanced Externship is a two-credit, letter-graded experience. It is open to both J.D. and LL.M. students.

Non-discrimination policy

Field placements and field supervisors shall not discriminate in the selection, training or treatment of externs on the basis of race, color, sex (including gender identity), national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, familial status, marital status, height, weight, disability or veteran status.