Externships - University of Virginia School of Law
Academics: Professional Training

Working full-time at the U.S. Department of Justice, Laura Prebeck spent the fall semester of her third year at UVA Law helping to investigate and prosecute suspected violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

"Not only was I able to gain substantive knowledge of criminal procedure, but I also gained real insight into prosecutorial decision-making within the Justice Department," Prebeck said. "By working at the DOJ full-time, I had the flexibility to attend a range of meetings, help out with time-sensitive assignments, and take on longer-term research assignments."

Prebeck also said she found the experience of working with a seasoned supervising attorney—a key element of the externship program—to be rewarding.

"Because I worked directly with him over the course of the semester, I was able to see my work contribute to his. It was very satisfying to hear my research referenced in a meeting with defense counsel, or to see my writing integrated into a larger memo or report." More


UVA Law's externships program allows students to make connections between legal theory and practice during their second and third years of law school. Through the program, students can earn academic credit while working in the public sector under the supervision of a lawyer. The program includes three options:

UVA Law in DC

UVA Law in DC is a curricular offering requiring 35 hours per week of work at the host organization, which must be a government office or agency or a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. Students participate in a weekly seminar in Washington, complete directed reading and writing assignments, and write a research paper on an approved topic relevant to the host organization’s work, for a total of 12 credits (3 graded, 9 credit/ no credit).

Part-time Externships

Part-time externships are primarily local and require students to work 10 hours per week for the host organization, as well as complete reading and short writing assignments. Students receive 3 academic credits (1 graded, 2 credit/no credit).

Full-time Externships

Full-time externships may be local, national or international, and require 35 hours per week of work at the host organization. Students must design a course of study and work under the supervision of a faculty member to complete directed readings and academic writing assignments, including a substantial research paper on an approved topic relevant to the host organization’s work, for a total of 12 credits (3 graded, 9 credit/no credit).

Why Extern?

Externships combine substantial, practical legal work for a governmental or nonprofit organization with academic inquiry through readings, a reflective journal, research papers and guided reflection papers, and, in the case of UVA Law in DC, a weekly seminar.  Externs learn to work under close supervision, receive feedback from the supervisor at the host organization and a Law School faculty member, and engage in self-assessment.   

The externship program connects traditional academic learning and abstract legal thinking with the practice of law, and assists students in adjusting to their roles as professionals, becoming better problem-solvers, and developing interpersonal and professional skills. The program is meant to help students master self-directed learning, define and pursue learning goals, and acquire the skill of learning from direct observation of and experience in the practice of law.


First-year students and LL.M. students are not eligible for externships. Transfer students are not eligible for full-time externships.

Ordinarily a student may participate in a full-time externship only in his or her fourth or fifth semester of law school, though exceptions may be granted under exceptional circumstances. 

No student may do more than one full-time externship, and no student may do more than two part-time externships, during his or her law school career. No student may do more than one externship per semester. A student may petition the Curriculum Committee to pursue a full-time externship after being enrolled in no more than one part-time externship, or to pursue a single part-time externship after being enrolled in a full-time externship, based upon exceptional circumstances. 


Applications should be submitted to Director of Externships Sprightley Ryan at law-ext@virginia.edu

Part-Time Externship Deadline
Nov. 15 for the following spring semester
April 15 for the following fall semester

Full-Time Externship Deadline
Oct. 31 for the following spring semester
March 15 for the following fall semester

Students should prepare for applying two months in advance in order to find placement with a host organization and/or line up a research topic and reading list. Full-time externships, other than UVA Law in DC externships, also require a faculty advisor.

Details about the program are in the Externship Manual.

Contact Information

Sprightley Ryan, Director of Externships