What is an externship?
An externship consists of part-time or full-time volunteer work at a government or nonprofit organization, plus reading and writing assignments, for academic credit.
UVA offers four types of externships: part-time externships, full-time individualized externships, J-Term externships, and UVA Law in DC (fall semester only).
May I work at a law firm or company for externship credit?
No. Externship credit is only available for work at government or nonprofit organizations.
If I’ve taken a clinical class, or am interested in taking a clinical class, can I still extern? How many non-classroom credits do externships count for?
Yes, you may extern if you’ve taken or are planning to take a clinical class, but you have to be mindful of the limits on non-classroom credits that can count towards your J.D. degree. You must have a minimum of 86 credits total for the J.D., of which 64 must be in-classroom credits. Thus, if you plan to have 86 credits for the J.D., you may have a maximum of 22 non-classroom credits.
- All credits earned by doing a part-time externship or a J-Term externship count as non-classroom credits.
- All 12 credits earned by doing a full-time, individualized externship count as non-classroom credits.
- Nine out of the 12 credits earned in the UVA Law in DC program count as non-classroom credits, except for those seeking admission to the New York bar, in which case 10 out of the 12 credits count as non-classroom credits.
The clinic I wanted to take is full or doesn’t fit in my schedule; can I do an externship at that office instead of the clinic?
Externships may not overlap substantially with clinical offerings. So, for example, you may not extern at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, or the U.S. Attorney’s Office trial division in the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville, because clinical courses have their students work there. You could, however, work in the trial divisions of U.S. Attorney’s Offices elsewhere, or at the LAJC in northern Virginia.
May I do an externship part-time?
Yes, for 3 credits total.
May I receive academic credit for externing with a judge?
Yes, but only during the academic year, not during the summer.
Do externships count towards the professional skills requirement?
Yes, any externship – whether part-time, full-time, or part of UVA Law in DC – counts towards the professional skills requirement for graduation.
Do you need to have taken Professional Responsibility, Evidence, or obtained a Third-Year Practice Certificate in order to extern?
You do not need to have taken Professional Responsibility or Evidence before beginning an externship, though you may find it helpful to have done so for certain externships. For some organizations, such as district attorney’s offices, having a Third-Year Practice Certificate may be desirable. Check with the particular organizations you’re interested in to find out if this is the case.
Will I need a background check for an externship?
If you’d like to extern for the federal government, you will undergo a background investigation; indeed, an offer to extern at a federal organization will often be contingent on passing the background check.
FINDING A PLACEMENT
Does UVA Law find externship placements for students?
Students must find their own externship placements. The externship program does maintain a list of potential placement organizations. This list is only partial, however; virtually any nonprofit or government organization can serve as a placement for an externship, so long as the work is legal in nature and is done under the supervision of a licensed attorney. See also the questions below.
How do I find a placement organization?
Opportunities for externships are almost boundless. Where you should apply depends on where you are in your law school career; what type of law you’re interested in, or what type of practice; and any geographic preferences. Many organizations that take summer interns also take externs, even if their websites do not indicate that. When in doubt, call or email an organization that interests you.Counselors in the Public Service Center can help you develop a strategic approach to obtaining an externship. There are also many resources on the Public Service Center’s website that have information on government and nonprofit organizations that offer placements, including the following (LawWeb access may be required):
Federal government opportunities
State government opportunities
Public defenders opportunities
Again, the options above are by no means exhaustive, but a starting place. The director of externships, A. Sprightley Ryan, can also offer suggestions.
PREVIOUS UVA LAW EXTERNSHIPS
Where have UVA law students done externships?
Would students who have done externships recently be willing to talk to me?
I’d like to extern but I’m not sure where or whether to do it part-time or full- time. Who can give me advice?
Make an appointment through Symplicity with the director of externships, Professor Ryan, or with a counselor in the Public Service Center, to discuss what type of externship and where would be best for you.
Where may I find further information on externships?
Details about the program are in the Externship Manual.