In any given quarter, it would not be uncommon for one SLS student to be externing with the City of Palo Alto, another to be at the White House Counsel’s office in Washington, D.C. and still another to be working at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Every quarter, students head off campus to work for academic credit in non-profit agencies, government offices and public policy organizations. In these public interest placements, they may do legal research and writing; they may do client interviews; they may make court appearances under the supervision of an agency attorney. And in conjunction with this uncompensated work, they take either an Externship Companion course or engage in a supervised tutorial which allows them to reflect and learn from their experience in a guided pedagogical setting.
After spending a quarter as an extern with the Legal Adviser and Director, Office of Legal Affairs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Tripp Zanetis, JD ’17 shared, “My externship allowed me to go from reading about international law in a casebook to applying international law to real-world problems on a daily basis. It also provided me with exposure to high-level legal practitioners from diverse backgrounds, legal systems, educations, and cultures. It was absolutely an integral part of my legal education.”
Externship Goals and Methods
The primary goals of Stanford Law School’s Externship Program are as follows:
- To enable students to continue to develop and clarify their professional goals through participating in, and reflecting upon, the work of their host organizations;
- To further develop students’ understanding of professional responsibility and professionalism through participation in, observation of, and reflection on legal practice in a real-life setting;
- To develop and strengthen lifelong habits of reflective learning and self-awareness through engaging in written and oral reflection and analysis, so that students will be able to guide their own professional growth after graduation;
- To improve students’ lawyering skills, including research, writing, and oral advocacy (whether formal or informal) through putting these skills to work for their host organization, and then receiving detailed feedback on their work;
- To further develop students’ substantive legal knowledge and analytic skills through their work for their host organizations and classroom readings and discussion; and
- To underscore that public service is an essential and rewarding part of any legal career through their work at their host organization.
The methods used to achieve these goals are:
- The provision of structured reflection and learning opportunities through faculty-led companion courses and oversight, which include relevant substantive and practice-focused readings;
- Exercises that allow exploration of practical skills, such as communication, time management, and cultural competence;
- Facilitated discussions regarding experiences at the externship sites; and
- Required reflection papers that are reviewed and commented upon.
We also engage in routine site visits to discuss externship supervision and overall expectations.
Stanford Law School offers two externship programs: The Standard Externship Program (SEP) or the Special Circumstances Externship Program. (SCEP).
The SEP allows students to work in the Bay Area for a minimum of 20 hours to a maximum of 34 hours per week in a public interest setting, such as a criminal prosecution or public defender’s office, a civil rights organization or a legal organization that specializes in environmental law. Students in the SEP must take the Externship Companion course and write weekly reflection papers of 2 to 3 pages. Recently, students in the SEP argued for criminal defendants in bail hearings, helped immigrants apply for asylum, and drafted contracts to acquire art for SFMoMA’s collection.
The SCEP allows students to work for academic credit throughout the United States and anywhere in the world. Because they are not in the Bay Area and are therefore unable to attend the weekly seminar, SCEP externs must work for 40 hours per week at their approved placement. They must also secure the agreement of a faculty member to supervise their placement and their tutorial, and conduct a site visit. In recent years, SCEP externs have worked at the US House of Representative’s Committee on Oversight & Reform, the New York AG’s Office, and the Public Defender’s Office in Lagos, Nigeria.
Take the First Step
Students who are interested in the externship program should review the FAQ to learn more specific requirements and applications for both the SEP and the SCEP. Students who wish to do an externship must schedule either an in-person or phone meeting with the Director of the Pro Bono and Externship Programs, Mike Winn, in advance of applying for an externship, and preferably before choosing the place they wish to extern. Please note that students may only participate in the externship program once during their time at Stanford Law School.
The Levin Center produces a regular e-newsletter featuring summer internships and school-year externships. Join the LinkedIn group. Note you must first join the Stanford Law School group, which verifies your SLS affiliation.
Students who still have questions after reviewing the Externship Program FAQ below should contact Mike Winn, the Director of the Pro Bono and Externship Programs.
Students may participate in the Externship Program only once during law school. Applications are reviewed on the basis of your academic performance and — for applications to participate in the SCEP (those outside the Bay Area) — the rigor of the proposed course of academic study to be conducted under the supervision of your faculty sponsor. (See below.) Generally, however, you will be considered eligible to participate IF:
- You have not participated in an externship before;
- You do not have any outstanding papers;
- You plan to extern at a non-profit agency or government organization only; (Judicial externships do not qualify);
- You meet with the Externship Director either in person or by phone prior to applying for your externship; and
- You are a 2L or 3L.
1. Transfer students who have completed one quarter at SLS are eligible.
2. Joint degree students who will have completed 112.5 quarter units by the end of your ninth quarter are also eligible.
Prior Participation in an SLS Clinic is Strongly Encouraged
Students who are considering an externship at any point in their law school careers should select their courses carefully in advance. In particular, it is highly preferred that students have taken one or more clinical courses prior to their participation in an externship. The applications of students who have not taken a clinic prior to, or contemporaneous with, making an externship proposal will be carefully scrutinized. Students who seek to do an externship that involves a substantive area of law that is also the subject of a clinic offered in the same quarter are required to first determine whether they would be able to secure a place in that clinic.
By way of hypothetical example: Assume that the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic will be offered in the Fall of 2017. Student John Smith wants to apply to do an externship in an immigration legal aid office outside of the law school in the Fall of 2017. John has not taken the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and has not taken the maximum of 2 clinics he is allowed to take while at SLS. Before applying to participate in the SLS Externship Program, he must first determine whether he could participate in the SLS Immigrants’ Rights Clinic in the Fall of 2017.
It’s up to you to make initial contact and arrangements with a placement. You may identify possible locations by reviewing student evaluations from summer public interest internships and prior externships. Please scroll down to the next section on this webpage to see a list of recent placements. You may also speak with members of the Levin Center staff and you may certainly do your own research into possible placements that fit your interests.
Once you find a potential organization to which you’d like to apply, you should generally submit a cover letter, resume and writing sample to them, although it would be prudent to check beforehand to see if other materials are required. Because many agencies are not aware that SLS is operating on the quarter system, you should also be sure to advise them of your specific schedule for the externship in the cover letter.
Be aware, as well, that some criminal or other governmental placements require a security clearance and/or a practice certification, and these processes take extra paperwork and time. Security clearances may take 10 to 12 weeks and certification takes at least 3 weeks. The application for certification of law students to practice under the supervision of an attorney in California is available online.
The number of credits students may receive for an externship varies depending upon the externship program and number of hours worked.
SEP Externships: Students registered for an SEP externship must work at least 20 hours a week and may work no more than 34 hours a week. Please also note that individual employers are free to require a minimum number of hours worked as a condition of employment. Full time externships are not allowed for SEP placements. The allotment of credits for a given number of work hours is as follows:
20 hours work = 6 Credits
24 hours work = 7 Credits
30 hours work = 9 Credits
34 hours work = 10 Credits
Students who are enrolled in an SEP externship must also take an externship companion course. The companion course is the two credit Civil/Criminal Externship Companion Course taught by Mike Winn, the Director of the Pro Bono and Externship Programs. The Registrar will enroll approved externs in the companion course.
SCEP Externships: All non-local externships require students to work full-time (40 hours a week) and participate in a reading tutorial. Students receive 12 credits for the SCEP externship.
Our two externship programs have different requirements when it comes to various modes of work.
Special Circumstances Externship Program (SCEP):
Fully-remote SCEP externships are not permitted, as the program is only available to students who must live outside of the Bay Area to participate in their proposed externship.
Hybrid SCEP externships are permitted, but require that the extern:
- Work at least 20% of their time in-person (e.g., in an office, at in-person meetings elsewhere, in court, etc.); and
- Work in-person at least once a week.
Standard Externship Program (SEP):
Hybrid SEP externships are permitted by default as long as the extern:
- Works at least 20% of their time in-person (e.g., in an office, at in-person meetings elsewhere, in court, etc.); and
- Works in-person at least once a week.
SEP externships that are fully-remote, along with hybrid externships that fail to meet the above requirements, are permitted at the discretion of the Externship Director on a case-by-case basis. In-person experiences are highly valued and, when available to the extern, will be favored (whereas proposals for fully-remote experiences where in-person opportunities are available will be disfavored). The following factors will be considered in the Director’s decision:
- The current policies and practices for employees at the host site (i.e., Do members of the staff regularly work in the office?);
- The current policies and practices for other externs/interns at the host site (i.e., Is the extern able to work in-person? Are other externs able to work in-person?);
- The availability of a substantially similar placement that can offer an in-person experience;
- The ability of the host site to provide quality work and a meaningful experience remotely; and
- The ability of the host site to fully integrate the student remotely.
No, there is no additional funding for any externships. Students can receive their normal financial aid package.
Site Visits: The ABA requires that a law school faculty member make a site visit to the student’s externship site. For students in an SEP externship, the Externship Director will schedule a site visit with them for sometime during the quarter. For those doing an SCEP externship, students should discuss these arrangements with their faculty sponsor prior to securing the faculty sponsor’s agreement to participate in the program. As noted above, site visits for an SCEP externship can be conducted in person, via Skype, or, if absolutely necessary, via a conference call. Students in any externship program should arrange for the site visit to be made at a time when both the student and site supervisor are present.
It is the student’s responsibility to make arrangements for the site visit regardless of the externship location. SLS does not provide funds for site visits. They must be made either at the faculty member’s own expense or in conjunction with some other paid travel. In some circumstances, it may be possible to have an alternate faculty member make a site visit. Such situations should be discussed with the Externship Director.
Evaluations: Both ABA and Stanford Law School rules require certain evaluation forms to be filed for each student in the externship program. It is up to each student to make sure that each of these forms is filed in a timely fashion in conjunction with their externship. Specifically, the forms that the student must file – or arrange for filing – are: 1) a Mid-Quarter Self-Assessment Form to be filed by the student and signed by both the student and the Site Supervisor; 2) a Final Evaluation by the Student; 3) a Site Visit Report by the Faculty Sponsor for SCEP externs or by the Companion Course Lecturer in Law for SEP externs; and 4) a Final Evaluation by the Site Supervisor. These forms should be timely filed by submission to the Director of Pro Bono and Externship Programs at the Levin Center.
Directed Research for Extra Credit: Students in the Externship Program may choose to earn an additional 2 to 3 units by developing a directed research project connected to the externship. Any student who wishes to pursue this option must follow the SLS requirements for Directed Research set forth on the Stanford Law School website at www.law.stanford.edu. See Student Handbook under Information for Current Students.
Health Insurance: International externs have the option of waiving Cardinal Care health insurance coverage if they obtain alternate insurance (travel insurance or otherwise) and notify Stanford’s Vaden Health Center in advance of the standard deadline, as listed on Axess. We encourage you to investigate coverage and costs thoroughly. To opt out of Cardinal Care for the Quarter, go into Axess online and go to “health insurance waiver.” For more information on opting out of Cardinal Care, please contact Vaden Health Center at (650) 723-2135.
The following list includes some of the public interest employers where Stanford Law School students have externed. Students earn academic credit for volunteering at a nonprofit or governmental agency during the school year.
Current students may also review past students’ externship evaluations on this password-protected website.
- ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, San Francisco, CA
- ACLU of Northern California, San Francisco, CA
- Animal Legal Defense Fund, Cotati, CA
- Asian Law Caucus, San Francisco, CA
- Bay Area Legal Aid, Oakland, CA
- California Rural Legal Assistance, Salinas, CA
- Centro Legal de la Raza, Oakland, CA
- Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, AL
- Equal Rights Advocates, San Francisco, CA
- Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, San Jose, CA
- Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco, CA
- Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center, San Francisco, CA
- Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, San Mateo, CA
- Legal Services for Children, San Francisco, CA
- NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, New York, NY
- National Center for Youth Law, Oakland, CA
- National Women's Law Center, Washington, DC
- Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco, CA
- Sierra Club, San Francisco, CA
- Alameda County District Attorney's Office, Oakland, CA
- California Attorney General, San Francisco, CA and Oakland, CA
- Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of California, San Francisco, CA and San Jose, CA
- San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, San Francisco, CA
- San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, San Francisco, CA
- San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, Redwood City, CA
- Santa Clara County Counsel, San Jose, CA
- Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office, San Jose, CA
- North American Treaty Organization (NATO), Brussels, Belgium
- U.S. Attorney’s Office, New York, NY
- U.S. Attorney’s Office, Washington, DC
- U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, DC
- U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC
- U.S. Department of the State, Office of the Legal Adviser, Washington, DC