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Externship Program

At Stanford Law School, the externship program is a complement to the Clinical Program. Every quarter, students who wish to supplement their clinical training, or do legal work which is not available in a clinic, head out to work for academic credit in non-profit agencies, government offices and public policy organizations. In these public interest placements, they may do legal research and writing; they may do client interviews; they may make court appearances under the supervision of an agency attorney. And in conjunction with this uncompensated work, they take either an Externship Companion course or engage in a supervised tutorial which allows them to reflect and learn from their experience in a guided pedagogical setting.

All of these students -- who are participating in the Stanford Law School Externship Program -- glean much more than substantive knowledge and practical skills; they also gain self-confidence and a sense of empowerment. After spending a quarter as an extern at the ACLU of Northern California, for example, Jen Clark, Class of 2011, noted: “Any opportunity to get out in the real world and see what lawyers do is empowering for law students. I’m more confident in the choices I’ve already made thanks to my time at the ACLU, and the additional first-hand knowledge I’m now armed with will be a source of assurance as I make decisions in the future.”

Externships — Around the Corner, or Around the World

In any given quarter, it would not be uncommon for one SLS student to be externing with the City of Palo Alto, another to be at the White House Counsel’s office in Washington, D.C. and still another to be working at the U.N. Rwanda Tribunal in Tanzania. These students would each be taking advantage of one of Stanford Law School’s two externship programs: The Standard Externship Program (SEP) or the Special Circumstances Externship Program. (SCEP).

The SEP allows students to work in the Bay Area for a minimum of 16 hours to a maximum of 34 hours per week in a public interest setting, such as a criminal prosecution or public defender’s office, a civil rights organization or a legal organization that specializes in environmental law. Students in the SEP must take the Externship Companion course and write weekly reflection papers of 3 to 5 pages, along with a final reflection paper of no fewer than 15 pages. Recently, students in the SEP handled both federal and state misdemeanor prosecutions. They did client counseling for California Rural Legal Services and they researched national immigration issues for the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project.

The SCEP allows students to work for academic credit throughout the United States and anywhere in the world. Because they are not in the Bay Area and are therefore unable to attend the weekly seminar, SCEP externs must work for 40 hours per week at their approved placement. They must also secure the agreement of a faculty member to supervise their placement and their tutorial, and conduct a site visit. In recent years, SCEP externs have worked at the U.S. Embassy in the Hague, the Brennan Center in New York City, the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. and the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York City, and the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

Take the First Step

Students who are interested in the externship program should view the Externship Handbook which contains more specific requirements and applications for both the SEP and the SCEP.  Please note that students may only participate in the externship program once during their time at Stanford Law School. Students in the final quarter of their third-year may not extern more than 16 hours per week, so they are not permitted to participate in the SCEP.

Students who have questions should please contact Jory Steele, Director of the Pro Bono and Externship Programs, at