Externship Program

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The Externship Program enhances traditional classroom instruction by engaging students in real-life lawyering experiences with practicing lawyers and judges in the community. Students are placed with one of the program’s 100 Externship partner sites including: judges at federal and state levels; federal and local prosecutors and public defenders; the North Carolina Department of Justice; nonprofit organizations such as Legal Aid, the Center for Civil Rights and the Southern Environmental Law Center; and in-house counsel such as Strata Solar, IBM, SAS, Blue Cross, Blue Shield and RTI, as well as University Counsel. Through the program, students are mentored in their professional development as well as diverse areas of practice such corporate law, healthcare, sports law, patent and trademark, criminal law, and civil rights. 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); (2) a six credit option for 3Ls externing with certain sites (including federal judges and the US Attorney) in the fall semester; (3)  the summer five credit program (for rising 2L and 3L students); and (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, the Environmental Protection Agency, etc. in Washington DC, New York or Atlanta.  Students participating in the Externship Program receive pass/fail academic credit for externing at one of the program’s approved partner sites.

Mentorship & Guidance

Students are mentored by the judges and attorneys serving as their on-site externship supervisors. The Externship Program’s faculty supervisors guide and facilitate the students’ exploration of their externship experience through tutorials, journal writing and group discussion.

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 also develop reflective lawyering habits that enhance their ability to learn from their experiences and observations.  Finally, through readings and discussion about ethics and professional values, the program promotes students’ understanding of their own developing professional identity. There are no mandatory course requirements for enrolling in the Externship Program; however, individual externship placement sites may have prerequisites. For more information on UNC Law’s Externship Program, contact the Externship Program faculty or 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 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.

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
  • Quintiles
  • 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 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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