1. I don’t have any legal experience at all. Can I still do an externship?
Absolutely. We have had many students with no legal experience participate successfully in the Externship Program. Although some externship sites prefer students with work experience or course work in a particular field, most do not. The purpose of the externship is to provide work experience in the legal profession and give students an opportunity to determine the type of work that will best suit them post-graduation whether or not they have done any legal work in the past.
The Externship Program is associated with non-profit and governmental agencies around the metropolitan Atlanta area. These agencies offer work in diverse legal fields and are listed by subject areas of interest in Externship Participants by Practice Area. Some students choose a particular externship because it will give them exposure to a field of law they may practice in the future. Others choose a particular externship to strengthen an identifiable skill set. Judicial clerkships, for example, are an excellent way to enhance legal writing skills. Regardless, every externship in our program is designed to enable students to strengthen practical skills, gain greater insight into the operation of the legal system, and develop a heightened sense of professional responsibility. If you have further questions about whether a particular externship is right for you, feel free to discuss your concerns with one of the Faculty Co-Directors or Sarita Thompson, Program Specialist.3. Does it make sense to enroll in an externship as a 2L? Do most sites prefer 3Ls?
Some externships require 3L status because students will represent clients in court pursuant to the Third-Year Practice Act. Many (although not all) of the externships in criminal prosecution include this requirement. Outside of this limitation, many students have participated in the Externship Program during their second year in law school. Those that do so successfully have considered in advance how best to balance the time required for their externship, academic classes, job interviews, and extracurricular activities.
4. Are there any externships for part-time students?
Yes. Externship sites designated as "Part-Time Students Only" have been designed for, and are only open to, students enrolled in the part-time program while taking the externship. Special arrangements have been made with those sites to accommodate part-time students who are not otherwise able to participate in the externship program because of on-gong commitments unrelated to law school. In addition, some externship sites, which indicate in the description that "Part-time students are encouraged to apply" have regular work hours that can accommodate part-time students.
5. Are there any summer semester externships?
Yes. As in the fall and spring, externs are required to work a total of 140 hours at the externship. To achieve this hour requirement, students must work a minimum of 20 hours per week over the course of the 7-week summer semester.
6. Are all programs offered every semester?
No. Some placements are only offered one semester each year, and some sites each semester will choose not to participate in our program. To see the externships available for the next placement cycle, please consult Current Opportunities.
7. Is the Externship Program a good way to get a job with the externship site after graduation?
No. It is unusual for an extern to receive a job offer from an externship site. Students should not take an externship for the purpose of securing permanent employment with the site. Some judges even preclude externs from applying to be full-time clerks in the same office. Nevertheless, most students find that the experience gained during an externship is extremely valuable as they seek employment opportunities post-graduation. In addition, students who work in prosecutorial offices post-graduation often have their externship time considered in calculating starting salary.
Students are limited to two semesters of participation in the Externship Program. Thus, a student may take no more than two one-semester externships or one two-semester externship. This limitation ensures that all students have an opportunity to participate in our program.9. Can students enroll in more than one externship in a single semester? What about clinical programs?
Students may only enroll in one externship each semester. Students who wish to participate in a clinical program and an externship during the same semester must receive express permission from an externship faculty Co-Director before they accept an externship offer. In most cases, students will not be given permission to participate in a clinical program and an externship in the same semester because students who have done so have had a difficult time meeting the time commitments of each program.10. Do any credit caps apply to the Externship Program?
Externships are graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. A maximum of eleven (11) credit hours of S/U work (excluding Litigation) can be applied toward graduation. In addition, no more than twelve (12) credit hours of clinical course work and externships combined can be applied toward graduation. A student may only take six (6) credit hours of externships (equivalent to two semesters).
11. What if I only want to do one semester of a two-semester externship? Is that possible?
This is almost never permitted. The decision to have a one or two-semester placement is made by agency site supervisors, not GSU faculty. Students who accept a two-semester placement and complete only one semester will receive no credit for either semester of the externship in the absence of extraordinary circumstances.
Several externships, particularly those in federal agencies, require a security clearance before a student can begin the externship. In our experience post-9/11, this can be a lengthy and rigorous process. Although the vast majority of students secure clearance, a few do not. Students should carefully consider whether issues in their past could affect their ability to secure clearance. Prior credit problems or a record of criminal conduct, for example, can delay or preclude clearance for many federal agencies. If you have questions about your ability to secure clearance for a particular externship, you should speak with a Faculty Co-Director prior to submitting your application.13. When do I need to apply for clearance?
It is critical that students who accept externships that require a security clearance submit the necessary materials to the agencies as quickly as possible after acceptance. This maximizes the chances that the student will receive clearance by the beginning of the semester. Students who need clearance to perform legal work who have not secured clearance within the first two weeks after the semester begins will be required to drop their externship absent extraordinary circumstances.14. There may be a conflict of interest with a job I have held in the past and the externship I would like to apply for. Can I still apply?
All potential conflicts of interest should be fully disclosed and discussed with the hiring externship site. The externship site will decide whether the conflict is sufficient to disqualify the student. A student who has a part-time or full-time paid position with an externship site approved by the Externship Program may not take an externship with that site.15. I am working for the government or a non-profit employer now. Is it possible to get externship credit for an agency that is not currently part of the Externship Program?
No. Although we recognize that such work experience is valuable, we do not provide credit for placements that are not approved by the Externship Program. Because our program exists to provide students with a learning experience rather than a work experience, each potential site goes through a considerable evaluation by Externship faculty before it is accepted into our program.
16. I have a paid position at an agency participating in the Externship Program. Can I receive academic credit as well?
No. Students may not receive compensation and academic credit simultaneously. Moreover, students working in agencies approved by the Externship Office only receive academic credit if selected through the interview process conducted by the Externship Office. Students who have a part-time or full-time paid position with an agency approved by the Externship Office may not take an externship with that agency.
17. I am a part-time student. When am I eligible to participate in the Externship Program? When can I be considered for programs that require 3L status?
Part-time students are eligible to participate in the Externship Program when they have completed all required first-year courses (fall or spring) or all required first-semester, first-year courses (summer). Students must have completed a total of 58 credits prior to the beginning of the externship in order to qualify under the Third Year Practice Act.
18. Is there any particular way that I will need to arrange my schedule as an extern?
There is no particular schedule required by the Externship Program outside of the ten hour (fall or spring) or 20 hour (summer) weekly minimum. Many sites, however, require students to be present on particular days because of court or work schedules. Many also prefer or require students to work two five-hour days (when 10 hours a week is required) rather than a few hours each day. We strongly recommend that you discuss scheduling expectations with the site before accepting a placement offer.
19. I’ve accepted an offer from an agency and now I’ve changed my mind. What should I do?
If you apply for and accept an offer, you have made a commitment to the externship site, and you may have taken a position another student wanted. The site will be expecting your assistance during the semester, and your professional reputation, as well as that of the College of Law, depends on your meeting those expectations. Accordingly, students who accept an offer will not be permitted to drop an externship, either before or during the semester, in the absence of significant hardship. The explicit approval of a faculty Co-Director is also required. Students who nevertheless drop an externship will have a Letter of Reprimand placed in their permanent file and will not be allowed to participate in the Externship Program in the future. Students who do not complete the second semester of a two-semester commitment will receive no academic credit for either semester.
No. Securing a paid position will almost never qualify as grounds to drop an externship. Students who think there is a possibility that they will need or want a paying job during the semester that may interfere with their ability to complete an externship should not apply for an externship.21. I accepted an externship before knowing my class schedule for academic classes. I have a conflict with a class that I need. Can I drop my externship?
No. Students are expected to work their class schedule around their planned externship. Class conflicts will not be considered sufficient grounds for withdrawal from the program or being excused from the class component of the externship.22. In terms of the time requirement, is it possible to front-load or back-load my externship? For example, can I work 20 hours the first seven weeks during fall or spring rather than 10 hours for 14 weeks?