"In working at my externship, the ability to use my skills and my knowledge for something that I was passionate about was unrivaled. Being able to sit across from a client knowing that I have a skill that I can offer to help them figure out whatever the solution is to their problem was really rewarding. It was awesome to know the work that we were doing was able to help equip somebody else to empower themselves to move forward."
-- Nakeena Covington
As a requirement of the Practicum, students work 12 to 15 hours per week during the school year and at least 18 hours a week during the summer in an approved externship under the close supervision of on-site lawyers, including federal judges, governmental officials, public interest attorneys, and corporate counsels. In the externship, students further their understanding of the relevant substantive law; develop their research, writing and advocacy skills; gain on-the-job training; observe and participate in court proceedings; and are introduced to the ethical and professional responsibilities of the legal profession.
Students receive four credit hours for a Practicum. Although each Practicum course has its own course requirements, all students must participate in all seminar classes, maintain a reflective journal, make a substantive class presentation or submit a paper, and satisfy the requirements of their externship.
Center for Externships Practica
- Civil Government Practicum: Students secure externships at federal, state, or local governmental agencies or offices involving civil law, including the Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian, etc. Students conduct research, draft motions and briefs, and work on policy initiatives.
- Corporate Counsel Practicum: Students secure externships in legal departments of Chicago-area corporations. Students conduct research, write memoranda, and counsel clients under the direction of in-house lawyers.
- Criminal Law Practicum: Students secure externships with either prosecution or defense lawyers in the federal or state criminal justice system, including the United States Attorney';s office, the Federal Defender';s office, the Cook County State';s Attorney's office and the Cook County Public Defender's office. Students conduct research, write legal memoranda and briefs, assist in trials and trial preparation, and observe courtroom proceedings.
- Judicial Practicum: Students secure externships with United States District Court Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Court of Appeals Judges. Students conduct research, prepare legal memoranda, draft opinions, and observe courtroom proceedings.
- Mediation Practicum: After completing mediation skills training from the Center for Conflict Resolution and becoming certified mediators, students conduct mediations under faculty supervision.
- Public Interest Practicum: Students secure externships with public interest legal organizations including the Legal Assistance Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Equip for Equality, and other non-profit organizations, where they help represent clients in civil matters. Students interview clients, research and draft legal memoranda, assist in discovery, and participate in policy initiatives. The Public Interest Practicum offered in the summer includes civil government externships.
Intensive Semester Practicum
The Center for Externships now also offers an Intensive Semester Practicum. Students may work with attorneys at a government or non-profit agency anywhere in the United States. Students work for the agency full time for an entire semester. In addition, they participate in-person or remotely in an accompanying course with a supervising faculty member using a syllabus that is individually designed for their particular placement. Students earn a total of 12 credits for this practicum: three graded credits for the class and nine ungraded credits for the externship experience. The Center for Externships places students in offices all around the city and country. They work side-by-side with lawyers and judges in an array of settings, gaining real-world experience doing everything lawyers do: writing, researching, analyzing, representing clients, conducting intakes, doing policy work, and drafting judicial opinions. The seminar component provides students the opportunity to get together once a week to discuss issues they are facing or that they may encounter, and to further explore legal issues faced by attorneys and judges with whom they are working.
Center staff is actively involved in helping students find a placement that is right for them. They meet individually with students to help identify agencies that are a good match for each student's interests.
"I see such excitement when students do this work," says Center for Externships director Cindy Wilson. "They really get it – how the law works in practice and what value their skills are going to offer to real people. Many of our students work with individuals who may not otherwise have a lawyer. They are doing work for people who really need them, and students are learning the importance of what lawyers bring to the system."
- Second and third year students are eligible to participate in the Practicum program.
- Each practicum may only be taken for one semester, with the exception of the Public Interest Practicum. The Public Interest Practicum may be taken for a second semester, as long as the course is taught by a different professor than the first semester practicum.
- Students may not participate in both a Practicum and a Clinic during the same semester without the permission of both the Clinic and the Practicum Professors.
- Attendance at weekly Practicum seminars is required.
- Students who have completed 51 credit hours are eligible to obtain an Illinois 711 license, which permits students to practice law under the direct supervision of an attorney. Some placements prefer or require a 711 license. An application for a 711 license can be obtained from the Bluhm Legal Clinic.
- The procedure for admission into a Practicum course varies from course-to-course. Consult each individual Practicum description to obtain information regarding admission into a particular Practicum.