Student Opportunities

"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

Students enrolled in a Practicum course 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. The law school’s location in a major urban area means that students have their pick of a large variety of excellent opportunities.  The externship settings include Chicago-area federal and state government agencies, federal and state judicial chambers, non-profits, and corporate general counsel offices. Depending on the setting, the externship work may involve researching and drafting legal documents or opinions, interviewing and advising clients, appearing in court, participating in negotiations, mediating cases, or drafting policy documents.

Students secure their own externships with the assistance of Practicum faculty. The faculty members for each course are actively involved in helping students find a placement that matches their interests and provides practical experiences they are seeking. Externships must involve substantive legal work, and externs must be supervised by licensed and experienced attorneys. Students may take more than one Practicum course during their time at the law school, so they are able to experience different legal settings and build different skills.

Each Practicum course combines externships with a seminar focused on ethical and legal issues faced by lawyers in those externship sites. There are separate Practicum courses for different types of work settings. In the seminar students learn from readings, class discussions, guest speakers, and by comparing experiences.

Students receive four graded credits for a Practicum course.  Although each Practicum course has its own specific requirements, students in every Practicum course must participate in the weekly seminar classes, maintain a reflective journal, make a substantive class presentation or submit a paper, and satisfy the requirements of their externship.

"Externships help students build legal and professional skills as well as explore different areas of the law and practice settings,” says Center for Externships director Cindy Wilson. “Students love the opportunity to get out of the law school setting and immerse themselves in a legal workplace with practicing lawyers. Externs also provide important public service by assisting low-income clients, government agencies, and judicial chambers.”

Center for Externships Practicum Courses

  • Civil Government Practicum: Externships are at Chicago-area federal, state, or local governmental agencies or offices involving civil law.  Students conduct research, draft motions and briefs, and work on policy initiatives.
  • Corporate Counsel Practicum: Students work as externs in legal departments of Chicago-area corporations. Students conduct research, write memoranda, and plan legal strategy under the direction of in-house lawyers.
  • Criminal Law Practicum: Students secure externships with either prosecution or defense agencies in the federal or state criminal justice system in Chicago, 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, interview clients and witnesses, assist in trials and trial preparation, and observe courtroom proceedings.
  • High Tech Practicum: This course is part of the San Francisco Immersion Program. Students work as externs in start-up and high tech companies. Students draft legal documents, participate in legal and business strategy sessions, and conduct legal research.
  • Judicial Practicum: Externships are primarily with federal judges in Chicago. Students conduct research, prepare legal memoranda, draft opinions, and observe courtroom proceedings.  In the summer, two sections of this course are offered – an in-person class for students with externships in the Chicago area and a distance class for students with externships in other parts of the country.
  • Media Law and Government Transparency Practicum: Externships are with news organizations, non-profits, and press advocacy groups. Students engage in legal research and drafting and work on litigation and policy initiatives. The course includes students from both the law school and the Medill School of Journalism.
  • Mediation Practice Practicum: Students serve as mediators in a range of civil cases for the non-profit Center for Conflict Resolution. In order to participate in this course, students must have taken Mediation and Advocacy and become a certified mediator through a training with the Center for Conflict Resolution.
  • Public Interest Practicum: Externships are with Chicago-area public interest legal organizations working on civil cases and projects. Students interview and advise clients, research and draft legal memoranda, assist in discovery and trials, and participate in policy initiatives.

Intensive Semester Practicum

The Center for Externships also offers an Intensive Semester Practicum course. For this course, students secure a full-time externship at a government or non-profit agency anywhere in the United States. Students are able to pick an agency where they can learn more about practicing in a particular area of law and build legal and professional skills of their choice. Students work in-person side by side with the lawyers at the agency for an entire semester. In addition, they participate in-person or remotely in an accompanying tutorial 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 the course: three graded credits for the classwork and nine ungraded credits for the externship experience. Participation in this Practicum is by application only.

Practicum Rules

Students planning on enrolling in a Practicum course should review the Rules for Practicum Courses.