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Externship opportunities are available for every student who wishes to participate in the program. Most of our students participate in the Clinical Externship Program.

Full-time externships are encouraged as they provide the opportunity to take on actual lawyering responsibilities and challenges, resulting in the deepest learning experiences. Full-time externs are able to make the transition from law student to first year attorney during the externships.

Externship opportunities are almost unlimited. Students may extern in any type of office or area of law. Students may use the Program's pre-approved externship placements or self-initiate an externship in San Diego or anywhere in the world, adding a cultural experience to the hands-on learning opportunity. California Western students have externed in many countries in Asia, Europe, and South America.

To learn more about the Clinical Externship Program, contact Program Administrator Ruth Briscoe by phone, 619-525-1438, or email, rbriscoe@cwsl.edu.

 

Program Goals

  • Develop the students' abilities to learn from experience and become thoughtful problem solvers
  • Promote students' sensitivity to and awareness of professional responsibility and ethical issues
  • Give students insights into how the legal system works
  • Train students in lawyering skills
  • Instill values of professionalism
  • Develop students' interpersonal skills

Externship and clerking experiences are both valuable aspects of legal education. They are, however, different in focus. The chart below compares the law clerk experience to the externship experience:


LAW CLERK EXTERN

Relationship with attorney Employer/employee Mentor/student
Purpose Produce Learn
Tasks and work Focus on needs of employer Focus on needs of extern
Expectations Efficiency and speed Understanding and learning
Exposure Work assigned Opportunity to engage in a variety of lawyering activities
Feedback Not primary focus Work reviewed and redone until correct
Compensation Money & experience Experience with supervision and academic credit

Academic Credit and Externship Seminar

Students extern for 13 weeks and spend from 20 to 40 hours per week at their externship, depending upon the number of units they are earning. Externs receive academic credit (pass/fail) rather than remuneration for their work. Students earn between 5 and 10 credits for their externship, each unit of credit representing 4 hours of externship per week. Every extern is required to enroll in the Externship Seminar for 1 unit.

Thus, a student externing 40 hours per week would receive a total of 11 units of credit, 10 pass/fail and 1 graded for the Seminar. The chart below lists the number of hours students must work at their externships depending upon the number of units they are receiving. Students may take other courses while externing, but may not exceed 17 units of credit.

UNITS HOURS PER WEEK HOURS FOR TRIMESTER
5 20 260
6 24 312
7 28 364
8 32 416
9 36 468
10 40 520

The above does NOT count the 1 unit classroom component

In the weekly Externship Seminar, students have an opportunity to share experiences and hear about a wide range of practice. The Seminar also provides a forum for discussing issues of concern to new lawyers, ranging from the most practical questions regarding professional etiquette, to the more theoretical considerations of ethics and morality. Students find these seminars to be an important source of support for making the transition from student to lawyer.

Students externing outside of San Diego, participate in a weekly seminar using a distance-learning program with a supervising faculty member and other out-of-town externs.


How to Plan for an Externship

Students must complete 90 units to graduate. After earning 30 units for the first year (full-time), students will need 60 units to graduate.

  1. After completing first year courses, meet with a Career Services Counselor to discuss career planning.
  2. Meet with faculty advisor to plan schedule for the second and third years.
  3. Visit the Clinical Externship Office to discuss externship opportunities.
  4. Acquire legal experience, at least one of which should be through the Pro Bono Program.

Students are strongly encouraged to plan for a full-time externship. Full-time externships require additional planning. Arrange to take all bar and graduation courses prior to the externship.

A few options to consider in the three trimesters prior to externing are:

  1. Take 2 trimesters of 16 units and 1 trimester of 17 units
  2. Reduce need for high course loads by taking 2 or 3 summer classes or a summer abroad program
  3. Take one 2 or 3 unit course while externing (only consider courses taught in the late afternoon or early evening)

Requirements

  1. Students must be in their last or next-to-last trimester of law school at the time the externship begins.

  2. Students are required to have a minimum of 50 hours of legal experience (paid, pro bono, or other volunteer) acquired since entering law school.

  3. Students may participate in the Program one trimester only.

  4. Students planning to extern outside of San Diego must arrange to attend the CWSL's Bar Review Course the trimester before or after their externship. Please contact Professor Sassi at csassi@cwsl.edu for details.

  5. Students cannot be on, or in danger of going on, academic probation (Academic Policy 7.33).

  6. Some externships have specific class ranking, prerequisite courses or other requirements, as detailed in the externship notebooks. Please read these requirements carefully when looking through the notebooks. The District Attorney (all departments) City Attorney Criminal Division and the Public Defender's Office all have Trial Practice Co- or Pre-requisites.

  7. Students ordinarily may not extern with relatives, friends, or friends of relatives.

  8. Students interested in externing at an office where they are working or have been employed, must have their supervising attorney complete a Teaching/Learning Agreement.

  9. Students may not take more than 17 units of credit while externing.

  10. Students must complete the STEPPS Program.