Externship Program

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Mission: Mentoring & Professional Exploration

The Externship Program at UNC School of Law is an academic program designed to enhance traditional classroom instruction by engaging students in real life lawyering experiences with practicing lawyers and judges in the community. Students receive academic credit (they are not eligible for salary) for participating in the program, which requires on site work with one of our partner placement sites for a set number of hours each week as well as completion of accompanying journal and class requirements at the law school. Our partner placement sites include judges at federal and state levels as well as lawyers from government agencies, public interest groups, and corporate counsel who serve as mentors and on-site supervisors for the students. The Externship Program’s faculty supervisors guide and facilitate the students’ exploration of their externship experience through tutorials, journal writing and class discussion.

Through the program, student externs have the opportunity to “try on” and explore a particular area of practice and observe different lawyering styles and techniques. The program aims to train students to examine legal doctrines and practice in the context of actual social and business problems and concerns. In the process, externships promote the students’ development of key lawyering skills such as legal analysis, research and writing, interviewing and counseling, negotiation, policy making and both informal and formal advocacy. Through their work with faculty supervisors, students critically examine their learning strategies, their goals and progress, and develop self-directed learning habits. The Program also promotes students’ understanding of professional responsibility through discussion of ethical and moral issues arising in practice.

The Externship Program offers four different academic options:

  1. the three credit fall/spring program for 3L students (2L students may extern in the spring if space is available) (10-12 hours per week).
  2. a six credit option for 3Ls externing with certain sites (including federal judges and the US Attorney) in the fall and spring semester (20 hours per week).
  3. the summer five credit program for rising 2L and 3L students (32 hours per week).
  4. the capstone Semester in Practice program for students spending the fall semester of their 3L externing full time with a federal agency such as the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the Environmental Protection Agency, etc. in Washington, D.C., New York or Atlanta (40 hours per week).

Students participating in the Externship Program receive pass/fail academic credit for externing at one of the program’s approved partner sites, as well as completed all requirements with their faculty supervisor at the law school.

Requirements and Participation

Students have the option of applying to several externship sites (up to 4). We gather and send all applications to our externship site supervisors who review them and determine which students to interview and ultimately select for an externship. Applications are sent out in mid-October for Spring externships and mid-March for students externing during the following fall semester. Summer applications are sent out at the end of January.

Internal Jump Link for the Three and Six Credit Programs

The Three and Six Credit Programs

There are no mandatory course requirements for enrolling in the Externship Program; however, individual externship placement sites may specify prerequisites.

Students participating in the Externship Program work under the direct supervision of an on-site supervisor for approximately 10 to 11 hours each week during the 14-week semester for three credits, and 20 hours each week for six credits. Site supervisors are experienced lawyers who provide direction, supervision and feedback to the extern as the student initiates, progresses through and completes assigned projects.

Fall and Spring lottery spots are assigned in March for the upcoming academic year. Students who receive a spot from the lottery may then apply to up to four externship sites, and accept at one. With sites ranging from judges to legal aid to corporate counsel to criminal trial work, there is something for every legal interest.

The program offers 55 placements in both the fall and spring semesters at a number of sites, and is limited to third-year law students through the clinic/externship lottery. The Program can occasionally offer a three credit spot to a spring 2L student once the lottery and waitlist are complete. The fall/spring program earns 3 pass/fail credit hours for the majority of sites, with a small number of sites offering 6 pass/fail credits. Please contact the Externship Program with questions about the 6 credit program.

Judges at federal and state levels and lawyers from government agencies, public interest groups and corporate counsel offices serve as mentors and on-site supervisors for the students. A few examples are:

  • Fourth Circuit, Court of Appeals
  • NC Supreme Court
  • University Counsel
  • Quintiles
  • NC Attorney General's Office
  • Center for Civil Rights

Sample site list (PDF)

Internal Jump Link for the Summer Program

The Summer Program

The summer program offers 50 placements, both at judicial and non-judicial sites. First- and second-year students interested in summer placement earn 5 pass/fail credit hours during the 7 week session and are on-site 32 hours per week. Externs attend class on Friday mornings during the summer session.

Participation in the Summer Program is via a lottery in late November. There are no mandatory course requirements for enrolling in the Externship Program; however, individual externship placement sites may specify prerequisites. Please contact Melissa Wood-Saltzman at msaltzma@email.unc.edu for more information.

Internal Jump Link for the Semester in Practice Program

The Semester In Practice Program

The Semester in Practice program offers full time, semester long externships with our partner government agencies and public interest organizations in Washington DC, New York City, Atlanta and North Carolina. The program is designed as a capstone experience for students interested in a particular area of practice or skills set who are willing to spend the full semester off campus and externing full time with the host organization. Students are trained and mentored by on-site supervisors at the host organization. In addition, the Externship Program’s faculty supervisors guide and facilitate the student’s exploration of their experience through virtual classroom discussion, journal writing and individual conferences. Participating sites in Washington DC include the Department of Justice, Environmental Enforcement Division; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Comptroller of the Currency; the FCC; the Department of Health and Human Services; and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Students also have the opportunity to extern with the New York City and Atlanta offices of the SEC, the Atlanta office of the EPA, the Atlanta office of the CDC, the New York City office of EarthJustice, and with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Students participating in the program receive 12 units of pass/fail credit. Placement in this Program is by application only and requires the approval of Professor Savasta-Kennedy. There are often specific course requirements to apply to these sites, as well as a GPA of 3.2 or above. Up to 15 students may participate in the fall of their 3L year. For more information, contact Professor Maria Savasta-Kennedy at mskenned@email.unc.edu.

Site information

Judges at federal and state levels and lawyers from government agencies, public interest groups and corporate counsel offices serve as mentors and on-site supervisors for the students. Basic information on sites can be found here:

Current Program Sites

Please note that not all site opportunities are available every semester. Externs should refer to their site list sheet for sites available each semester.

Resources for Students

Resources for Becoming an Approved Site

If you are interested in joining the Externship Program as a site supervisor, the first step is to complete and return the Externship Site Information Form (Word). We require that all participating sites in our program have an on-site supervisor who is an attorney with a minimum of five years of experience as a practicing lawyer. Supervisors must also read and sign the Site Supervisor Responsibilities document (see below). Please note that at this time we do not place externs with private firms.

Interested sites can review our Site Handbook below for site responsibilities and expectations. Please contact either of the Externship Program Faculty to begin the process of becoming an approved site.

UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

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