Enrollment, Application, and Lottery Process
Should I apply to enroll in an externship course even if I'm not certain whether I will be completing one?
Once I am assigned an externship semester, do I have to take any further steps before the placement process begins?
Placement Process and Course Registration
Why can’t I set up my own externship, and why do JD Externship Program faculty have to approve my placement?
Our program has the pleasure of serving more than two-thirds of the student body each year. In order to ensure that the externship placement process proceeds in a timely, orderly, and uniform manner that is fair to all interested students, we do not allow students to set up their own externship. Instead, we require that you work with the JD Externship Program to set up your externship.
Externship faculty must confirm that your externship for JD credit meets VLS and ABA requirements and that the expected quality of the experience is sufficient to award credit. The approval process is conducted by externship faculty. It may involve a request for written information, and it always involves a phone conversation with the attorney, judge, or JD professional with whom the student wishes to work for credit.
Why can't the Placement Process begin earlier than the semester preceding my preferred externship semester?
In contrast to law schools with lots of local externship options, the VLS process is actually very early. It is common for externship faculty to contact externship sites in close proximity to law schools in metropolitan areas to push for early consideration of VLS students because of that timing. In most other externship sites, the application process does not begin until the VLS process begins for any given semester. Most lawyers, judges, and other JD professionals are not considering externs earlier than our process, and many don’t have a clear sense of whether they have sufficient work to keep a student busy until they are much closer in time to the preferred semester.
Note: If you are considering an externship site that appears to have an early deadline, please let JD Externship faculty know. We can easily contact the location to determine if you should apply before our process begins. Most often, internships posted with “rolling” deadlines do not indicate an application process that is earlier than our enrollment process.
After submitting my application and meeting with JD Externship Program faculty, can I work on my externship placement on my own, subject to the approval process of the JD Externship Program?
What is the goal of limiting students to one externship application or focus of efforts at a time, and is it mandatory?
This is the single most difficult question to answer due to the extreme flexibility the JD Externship Program offers VLS students. Timing is highly variable. For some sites, timing is predictable. In others, it is impossible to know when attorneys/judges/JD professionals will make decisions about your externship. Faculty can be successful in pushing for early decisions, but not always.
The goal is to confirm an externship for every student before an on-campus "Meet and Greet" orientation session that occurs in the semester before your externship. The goal is not always met. These on-campus sessions are conducted in late April for Fall semester externships and in late November for Spring semester externships.
Why might some of my classmates know sooner than I will know where I’m going to be doing my externship?
Is there a possibility I will not be confirmed in an externship after applying, meeting with a faculty member in the externship offices, and making application to sites of interest to me?
Courses, Credits, and Grading
How does an externship for JD credit at VLS differ from an “internship” during the summer or during college?
Work Commitment to Earn Credit
Engaging professionals and the issues they address within the office setting, as matters arise and then inevitably change, is the essence of the exposure we seek for our students earning credit towards their law degree. Telecommuting, although emerging in the profession, offers a different quality of experience. Virtual externships or hybrid externships are carefully considered if the employer can offer a meaningful experience that overcomes the remote qualities of telecommuting.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work is now permitted and we will work with your supervisors to ensure you still have a productive and rich experience.
Full-time: The classroom component is a two-credit academic course, and you should expect to spend time in "class" and on assignments consistent with the time you would spend in any other academic course for JD credit.
Part-time: The classroom component is imbedded within the credits you receive for the externship as a whole. A reasonable estimate for time spent per week on coursework is an hour, on average.
Coursework: You will be expected to participate in an online orientation the week before your externship begins. You will draft a learning plan for your academic goals for your externship and meet with your on-site supervisor to engage in a self-evaluation process several times during the semester. You will also meet with your faculty supervisor, alone or in groups, several times during the semester, keep a weekly journal reflecting on your experiences, and keep weekly timesheets tracking your on-site hours and billable work.
Where Can I Do my Externship?
You may not extern under the supervision of an unlicensed lawyer when working in a legal practice setting. In a policy setting, you may only work under the supervision of someone holding a JD, whether actively licensed to practice or not.
You may not extern under the supervision of a lawyer, judge, or JD professional with less than five years of experience in the area of law or policy in which he or she practices.
You may not extern for JD credit at a site where you have previously worked for credit, as a volunteer or for pay, unless approved by the Director of JD Externships under the restrictions set out in the VLS Academic Regulations.
International externship students must work under the supervision of a lawyer or JD equivalent (if policy work is the focus) licensed in the jurisdiction where the representation or advocacy takes place.
Foreign Students: The US Government currently prohibits most federal agencies and other offices from accepting foreign students as externs, even for academic credit. There are some exceptions, including federal courts.
Does VLS have a database that I can access to see where other students have done externships in the past?
Course and/or Clinic Participation During and After the Externship
Can I enroll in a distance learning ("Online Learning Program") course or courses during my externship semester?
Financial Aid and Compensation
Can I be paid by the sponsoring organization I am working for while enrolled in a JD Externship Program course?
Can a sponsoring organization reimburse me for some of my living and travel expenses while on an externship?
Why am I required to meet with financial aid staff before my externship is approved and reported as enrolled to the Registrar’s Office?
Background Checks / Security Clearances
What types of questions are asked in a sponsoring organization's security clearance or background check process?
Required Attendance - Orientation
If I do not attend the mandatory orientation and my excuse is not accepted, will VLS really not allow me to enroll in the externship?
The on-campus “Meet and Greet” session is the only portion of orientation held on campus for Semester in Practice students. It will be scheduled with plenty of advance notice, late in the semester preceding your externship semester, in late April for Fall semester externships and in late November for Spring semester externships. The balance of orientation for SiP is conducted online in the week prior to the externship start date. You are required to attend and participate in both portions of the orientation. The orientations for the Part-Time JD Externship course, and the Judicial Externship course, will take place on campus, in person. Attendance is mandatory unless you make prior arrangements to attend remotely.
If COVID restrictions make meeting in-person impossible, we will move the session to Teams.