Externship Program

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The Externship Program is designed to augment traditional classroom instruction by engaging students in the examination of legal doctrines and practice in the context of actual social and business problems and concerns. Students participate in real-life lawyering experiences with practicing lawyers and judges in the community who serve as on site mentors to the student during the semester. Students are placed with one of the program’s 130 Externship partner sites including: judges at federal and state levels; local district attorneys and public defenders; the North Carolina Department of Justice; non-profit organizations such as Legal Aid, the Center for Civil Rights and the Southern Environmental Law Center; and in-house counsel, such as IBM, Blue Cross, Blue Shield and RTI. Students receive mentoring in their professional development as well as diverse areas of practice including corporate law, healthcare, sports law, patent and trademark, criminal law, and civil rights.

The program offers four different academic options; the fall/spring three credit program for 3L students, a limited fall/spring six credit program for 3L students, the summer five credit program (for rising 2L and 3L students), and the 12-credit Semester in Practice program during the fall of the 3L year. Students participating in the Externship Program receive pass/fail academic credit for externing at one of the program’s approved sites.

Mentorship & Guidance

On-site supervisors include federal and state judges, and lawyers from government agencies, public interest groups and corporate counsel offices. The Externship Program's faculty supervisors guide and facilitate the students' exploration of their externship experience through tutorials, journal writing and group discussion. The program is premised on the concept that students will not only develop key lawyering skills through their work on site, but will learn to critically examine their learning strategies, their goals and progress, and develop self-directed learning habits through their work with the externship program faculty supervisors.

Lawyering & Professional Exploration

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. Externships promote students' development of key lawyering skills, such as research and writing, interviewing and counseling, negotiation, and informal and formal advocacy. Through their work with faculty supervisors, students develop reflective lawyering habits which will enhance their ability to learn from their observations and experiences. Finally, through group and individual discussions about ethics and professional values, the program attempts to enhance students' understanding of ethical and moral issues arising in practice as well as their own developing professional identity.

For more information on UNC Law’s Externship Program, including timelines for the Clinical Programs and Externship Lottery, contact a member of the Externship Program Faculty & Staff.

Requirements and Participation

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.

Sample site list (PDF

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.

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 or GPA requirements to apply to these sites. 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.

Examples of Sites for Fall and Spring 3 credit and for summer

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
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • NC Attorney General's Office
  • Center for Civil Rights

Current Program Sites

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

Resources for Students

Resources for Sites

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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