UCLA School of Law’s Externship Program enables students to earn academic credit for unpaid work under the direct supervision of an attorney in a judicial, public interest, transactional, civil government, or criminal law setting. The Program works closely with a carefully curated collection of placements across Los Angeles and beyond to ensure that supervisors have the tools they need to deliver consistent and meaningful feedback, challenging work (on par with what would be assigned to an entry-level attorney), and meaningful integration into office culture.
Part-time externships are open to all 2L, 3L and LL.M. students, and full-time externships are available for JD candidates in their final 3 semesters of law school. Externship students complete field placement units at their placement and must participate in a corresponding seminar or faculty tutorial (depending on the type of externship) that guides students through critical reflection about their professional values and identities, legal ethics, their experiences in the workplace, and the impact of their placement’s legal work.
Externships provide an opportunity to practice doing the work of an entry-level attorney while benefiting from the support of both an on-site supervisor and an off-site faculty member. Student externs have led crucial union negotiations, drafted state laws, argued motions in district court, cross-examined witnesses in restraining order hearings, authored appellate briefs and issued policy memos, among many, many other memorable experiences.
If you’re interested in pursuing an externship, please review our website, the key deadlines and program requirements, and explore our database of placement sites. We encourage you to contact email@example.com and schedule an advising session to get started. Depending on the type of externship, our advice about when to start applying varies (for example, judicial externs’ positions tend to have much earlier deadlines), so check in with us early and often!
Externship Learning Goals
- Observe and learn from attorneys doing real-world work in a particular subject area.
- Increase insight into how the legal system functions in the extern’s substantive area of practice.
- Practice the art of soliciting, receiving, and applying regular feedback.
- Flex critical lawyering and self-care muscles.
- Develop the personal and practical skills needed to succeed in the legal workplace; these include time management, rapport-building, presentation skills, knowing when to ask for help, and other relevant skills.
- Engage in self-assessment through goal setting, devising strategies for accomplishing those goals, and taking a proactive role in receiving feedback and mentorship from instructors and supervisors.
- Build awareness of how systemic oppression can impact clients, colleagues, and key decision makers.
- Explore professionalism, professional identity, and ethics in legal practice.
- Promote self-directed and lifelong learning.
The Externship Program’s dates vary each year. Students interested in a spring externship should begin looking no later than October 1, and students interested in a fall externship should begin looking no later than March 1. For specific program dates, please visit the Externship Department website.
After receiving an offer from a placement, students must apply to the externship program. For the fall semester, the application deadline is in early August. For spring semester, the application deadline is around the last day of classes for the fall semester.
- Accept an externship offer from a UCLA-approved placement site.
- Submit an online application to the Externship Program by the deadline.
- Sign Externship Agreement and submit via 12Twenty.
- Work the required number of hours (52 hours for each unit of academic credit for part-time students or 40 hours for 15 weeks for full-time students) over the course of the semester, while meeting (at least weekly) with your supervisor and diligently logging your hours through the 12Twenty application. Regularly upload your time sheets by the deadlines posted by the Externship Office.
- Attend your externship seminar (or tutorial meetings) and submit all assignments (journal entries, midterm, final) on time.
Part – Time Externships
Part time externships range from 2-8 fieldwork units, students must work 52 hours per fieldwork unit. You must also attend a mandatory 1-unit companion seminar, and your obligation is tallied over the course of the full 13-week semester. Part-time externs take an evening seminar organized by subjects (Criminal Law, Public Interest, Government, Transactional, or Judicial). The seminar meets 6 times, in the evenings, and is a single credit (P/U/NC). Students who have already completed the seminar should reach out to the Externship Department and take an ungraded faculty tutorial (no additional credits).
Full – Time Externships
Full-time externships are 13 credits, and your obligation is tallied on a weekly, rather than hourly, basis. You are obliged to work for 15 weeks. Because you have no other courses during your full-time externship, you are welcome to work into the finals period. Full-time externs need not make up time for court holidays or office/court closure days that occur during the regularly scheduled semester dates. However, full-time externs must make up sick or vacation days.
Your field placement work will earn you 11 pass/fail fieldwork units and an additional 2 credits of letter- graded work. Full–time judicial students earn these two credits through an evening seminar (Law 850). Full-time agency/public interest externs earn their 2 graded credits through a faculty tutorial. CPRL, UCDC, and the Promise Institute have their own requirements and interested students should reach out to those programs directly to review program requirements.
International and NGO Externships
In partnership with the Promise Center for Human Rights and the International and Comparative Law Program, the Extern & Field Placement Program offers NGO and international placements for students pursuing international human rights work. Students seeking this kind of experience should contact Professor Kate Mackintosh at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin identifying appropriate placement sites.
Education Sector Policy and Consulting Externship
The Center for Public Research and Leadership (“CPRL”) at Columbia University in New York City is a partnership of top professional schools that prepares a diverse pool of graduate students to lead, counsel, and foster deep structural change in U.S. educational systems. Students in this full-semester, 13-credit experiential learning opportunity, live and work with other graduate students from across the country in New York City, while advising and consulting for major players in public education. To learn more, visit https://cprl.law.columbia.edu/ or contact CPRL@columbia.edu.
The UCDC Law Program is a collaborative, full-semester externship program in Washington, DC. The Law Program combines a weekly seminar taught by Professor Nicole Lehtman with a full-time field placement to offer law students an opportunity to learn how federal statutes, regulations, and policies are made, changed, and understood in the nation’s capital. UCDC Law includes law students from UCLA and the four other UC law schools. Students receive 13 units for successful completion of the Law Program: 10 units for the field placement and 3 units for the required companion course, Law and Lawyering in the Nation’s Capital. To learn more about UCDC Law contact Nicole Lehtman at email@example.com.
Federal Public Defender: Noncapital Habeas Unit
Students accepted to this field specialization will gain real, on-the-ground experience advocating for indigent criminal defendants in habeas corpus proceedings. Students will learn from two experienced deputy public defenders in the Noncapital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender’s Office. Students will work for two - three field placement credits (roughly one - two days a week) at the Los Angeles Federal Public Defender. They will learn substantive law, legal advocacy skills, and case strategy from their FPD supervisors in a corresponding weekly Tuesday evening seminar.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an externship? Is it the same thing as an internship?
An externship is an off campus learning experience for one semester (during the academic year only) in a judge's chambers, a government agency, non-profit, or in-house counsel with a private company or corporation. Students in the externship program receive consistent and rigorous feedback from their placement supervisors, and critically reflect on their experience with their peers in a corresponding seminar course, or through a one-on-one faculty tutorial.
Are externships graded?
The field placement component of an externship is graded on a P/U/NC basis. The part-time extern seminar and tutorial are Pass/Fail. Students who do not complete the required components will not pass the 1 credit course, but letter grades are not assigned. The seminar and tutorial for full-time students is a 2 credit, graded course.
Are there any prerequisites?
While there are no pre-requisites to take an externship, externs hoping to appear on the record in court will need to apply for the California Bar’s “Practical Training of Law Students” program, which certifies law students to provide legal services under the supervision of an attorney. Current students can learn more about the process by reviewing the California State Bar website or the Externship Department website on the topic.
My summer employer offered me a fall externship. Will that work?
Students rarely turn their summer employment into fall externships, for a variety of reasons. First, externships must be at UCLA-approved placement sites only. Secondly, students may not work at an externship site where they have previously worked, unless they can prove that the experience will be sufficiently different: it must involve meaningfully different challenges, learning opportunities, and, ideally, a different supervisor. If you’re interested in exploring this possibility, reach out to the externship office to discuss the position as soon as possible.
I am an LLM student, here on a student visa. Can I still take an externship?
Yes, with some limitations. Reach out to Vic Telesino, the Director of Graduate Admissions, to discuss the details. The externship office works closely with the Graduate Studies team to ensure that LLMs have a positive experience.
How do I find an externship?
Students find an externship through Symplicity postings, networking, reading the opportunities the Externship Program sends via email, or by reaching out directly to one of our approved placements. Students may review a list of prior placements on our Department website (linked below). We always encourage students to start by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, to discuss your goals for your externships, and to obtain contact information for relevant placement sites. To learn more, please visit the Externship Department website.
When is the right time to apply to externships?
Students hoping to do a fall semester externship should begin searching for positions and applying around March/April. Note that start times for externship postings vary widely by subject area. Judicial externships and positions requiring security clearance generally get posted quite early. Transactional and public interest positions are posted throughout spring and summer. Deadlines for the externship program are posted on the Externship Department website page.
For Supervisors and Placement Sites
We are extraordinarily lucky to work with committed, compassionate attorneys who care deeply about ensuring that UCLA School of Law students get the most out of their externships. The Externship Office is on hand to support supervisors through difficult feedback conversations, assignment crafting, and anything else that may arise over the course of the semester. Supervisors also have a dedicated website where we post articles, videos, and guides to enhance supervision skills. You’ll also find the links to the midterm and final, your extern’s deadlines, as well as information about how to post an open externship position there.
Supervisors should review the Field Placement Supervisor Manual here.
Interested in becoming an Approved Placement Site? Please email the email@example.com or call 310.206.5929.
Current placements: For guidelines on how to submit your postings, and more information and resources for current placements, please visit https://libguides.law.ucla.edu/externshipsupervisors.
Expectations for Supervisors
Supervisors are expected to meet regularly with the extern (at least once a week) to discuss assignments, provide feedback, and field questions. At the mid-point and end of the externship, supervisors should participate in the student’s formal evaluation (provided by UCLA). Supervisors should ensure that all work assigned to the extern is equivalent to work that would be assigned to an entry-level attorney. Supervisors should spend significant time reviewing externs’ first drafts and providing detailed feedback to the extern. The extern should submit subsequent drafts to achieve the appropriate quality of work (rather than having the supervisor complete the document).
Supervisors should strive to include the extern in office meetings, strategy meetings, and any other facets of office life – or the life of a particular case – that would enhance the extern’s understanding of the work. For the full list of placement and supervisory duties, visit Supervisor Resources.
Resources for Supervisors
Resources are updated regularly. For the most recent collection, visit Resources for Supervision.
Rules Specific to Placement Sites
- Placement sites may not provide the student with any compensation. If you are concerned about labor laws, please refer to this fact sheet: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/71-flsa-internships.
- Only UCLA-approved sites may host externs. Please do not engage our students for externships if you are not sure that you are a UCLA-approved externship placement site. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310.206.5929, to verify your status, or inquire about becoming an approved site.
- Our students may not extern for additional semesters without changing the externship significantly to include new challenges.
- The UCLA Academic Standards do not allow students to extern at for-profit law firms.
- Externs should be incorporated into any office meetings, events etc. that would typically welcome entry level attorneys.
For Prospective Placement Sites
The Externship Office welcomes inquiries from Los Angeles-area organizations seeking to serve as externship placement sites. Please review the information on this page and contact us to begin the process.
Contact the Externship Program
You can reach us at email@example.com or 310.206.5929.