Center for Externships

Employers consistently convey their desire to hire law school graduates who are ready to practice and who have the skills, not just analytical or research skills, but also the practical skills needed to be productive members of the team from day one.

Northwestern University School of Law offers one of the most comprehensive externship programs in the country. Each year, more than 200 law students gain on-the-job training, while earning class credit in a practicum course. The Center for Externship's Practicum program integrates theoretical coursework taught by faculty members with an expertise in a particular field of law, with hands-on learning provided by fieldwork. This integrated approach to experiential learning results in graduates who are confident and prepared with real-world experience when they begin their careers.

This reciprocal design provides students with a theoretical background that enhances their externship and an opportunity to use their externship to inform their in-class learning. The combination of both types of learning promotes a high level of engagement in both the courses' curriculum and the externship experience.

"Our program is different from many others in that rather than simply putting all externship students in one class, we group students with similar types of placements together in a smaller classroom setting with a curriculum specifically designed to inform that particular type of work," says Center for Externships director Cindy Wilson.

The Center for Externships's program includes a series of subject matter-based Practicum seminars. Students work at their placements about 12 hours each week and attend a weekly seminar that includes assigned readings and discussions about key issues they may be experiencing in their day-to-day externship work. Students gain a heightened level of confidence in their ability to appear before judges, write briefs or opinions, prepare cases, and work with clients. Their externship experiences also give them new insight into cases they read in traditional doctrinal classes.

Center for Externships Overview Video