Externships

Gain hands-on experience in judicial chambers, public interest organizations, and government offices while earning academic credit.

While many students choose to complete an externship during the summer after their first year of law school, many externship opportunities are within walking distance of Detroit Mercy Law, which makes it convenient to gain practical legal experience any time of year.

“Serving as a judicial extern at the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is the highlight of my experience at Detroit Mercy Law and opened many doors in my legal career. It was an honor to spend a summer at the Court and learn from experienced jurists.”

Margarita Dvorkina
Margarita Dvorkina '19, Dual JD

Example Externship Placements

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    Judicial

    • United States Judge for the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
    • United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • Michigan Court of Appeals 
    • Macomb County Circuit Court 
    • Oakland County Circuit
    • Wayne County Circuit Court
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    Non-Profit

    • Beaumont Health 
    • City of Detroit Board of Ethics 
    • Federal Community Defender
    • International Institute of Metropolitan 
    • Kent County Office of the Defender
    • Lakeshore Legal Aid
    • Legal Aid and Defender Association (LADA)
    • Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice 
    • Oakland University Office of Athletic Compliance
    • Southeastern Dispute Resolution Services
    • Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center
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    Government

    • Department of Homeland Security 
    • ICE Office of the Principal Legal Advisor
    • Macomb County Prosecutor's Office
    • Michigan Attorney General
    • Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission
    • Michigan Department of Civil Rights
    • Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office 
    • National Labor Relations Board
    • United States Attorney's Office
    • Wayne County Corporation Counsel
    • Wayne County Land Bank
    • Wayne County Prosecutor's Office

For Supervisors

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    Externship Site Supervisor Guidelines

    Detroit Mercy School of Law Externship Course
    Field Placement Supervisor’s Guide

    Thank you for agreeing to participate in the Detroit Mercy Law School Externship Program. Detroit Mercy Law has long been a recognized leader in preparing students for the actual practice of law and educating our students to become complete lawyers by providing practical and relevant legal education and experience.

    Detroit Mercy Law Externship Program allows students to receive academic credit for service as a legal extern for a court, government agency or nonprofit organization consistent with the American Bar Association (ABA) Standards. Externships provide students with real-world experience in the legal field. This program is a partnership between the student, law school and field placement (i.e., externship organization). Below are a few rules and guidelines to ensure the educational quality of the experience for the student.

    I. Externs must work under the direct supervision of a “Site Supervisor” who is a licensed attorney or person similarly qualified to supervise legal work.

    II. Externs are also supervised by a faculty member of the law school who provides classroom instruction, reviews weekly journals and a reflective paper, and evaluates the student’s overall educational achievement.

    III. At the beginning of the field placement, the student, site supervisor and faculty member should agree on a set of goals, methods and overall plan that will be reduced to writing by the student and faculty member, and then signed by the student, site supervisor and faculty member. This document should include: (1) a description of the substantial lawyering experience the student expects to have including the opportunity for performance, feedback and a final evaluation by the site supervisor; (2) an understanding that the site supervisor will supervise the legal work of the student, but the faculty member will supervise journals, the reflective paper and the student’s self-evaluation; (3) an understanding that the faculty member will be responsible for the final grade (pass or no pass); and (4) an understanding that the faculty member may, where appropriate, intervene with the site supervisor to ensure the educational quality of the experience for the student.*

    IV. Students are expected to submit weekly time sheets for approval to the site supervisor. The student should save these signed time sheets and provide them to the law school faculty member in the time and/or manner required by the law school faculty member.

    V. Students are expected to work a minimum of 120 hours and a maximum of 180 hours throughout the field placement. This work can be spread over a period of 15 weeks during the Fall and Winter semesters (i.e., the student may work one week beyond the traditional 14-week semester) and may be completed a week or two beyond the traditional 7-week Summer semester. If the site supervisor has insufficient work to meet the minimum requirements, the site supervisor should immediately contact the law school at the contact numbers listed below. Please note students who are not U.S. citizens and who maintain full-time status during the semester that includes the Externship course may not work more than 20 hours per week in light of immigration restrictions.

    VI. According to ABA Standard 304(c), the field placement must provide opportunities for performance and feedback as well as a “substantial lawyering experience.”

    This means the student’s experience must be reasonably similar to the experience of a lawyer advising or representing a client or engaging in other lawyering work.

    A substantial lawyering experience provides opportunities for performance, feedback, reflection and self-evaluation. To achieve this, students should be required to perform legal tasks, such as research, analysis, investigation, counseling, legal writing or other similar legal work. Some opportunity for learning by observation will be appropriate, but should be limited. A substantial lawyering experience should not include clerical or administrative work that could be done by a non-lawyer. Clerical duties such as photocopying, filing or completing forms that do not require the exercise of professional judgment should be avoided or should constitute a small part of the student’s work.

    VII. The site supervisor may choose to provide written feedback to the student on the student’s work product and should provide an opportunity to revise and correct work, as appropriate, as part of the student’s learning experience. Constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement are appropriate.

    VIII. Site supervisors agree to provide verbal feedback directly to the extern throughout the field placement. Students are learning to become lawyers and verbal guidance is always welcome.

    IX. Site supervisors agree to return to the law school a completed written evaluation form at the end of the semester. Supervisors are encouraged to review the evaluation form with the student once it has been completed. A copy of the evaluation form is attached to these guidelines.

    X. Detroit Mercy Law, either through the faculty member or clinical director, will maintain regular contact with the site supervisor to assure the quality of the student’s educational experience.

    XI. Site supervisors should participate in periodic training events hosted by the law school.

    XII. Site supervisors are encouraged to immediately report any areas of concern so that any issue(s) can be resolved on a timely basis.

    XIII. Students may not be paid for their field work, although they may receive compensation for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses related to the fieldwork, such as parking fees and mileage incurred as part of the field placement work.

    1 ABA Standard 304(c)(vii) requires that a field placement course include “sufficient control of the student experience to ensure that the requirements of the Standard are met.”

     Detroit Mercy Law Contact: Rebecca Nowak, Clinical Program Coordinator 313-596-9409

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    Evaluation Form

For Students

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    Eligibility

    What Are the Eligibility Rules for the Externship Course? 

    All students must be in good academic standing and have a cumulative GPA of 2.2 or better to enroll in the Externship course. For first-year students who wish to do an externship during the summer following their first year, the US JD students must possess a first semester GPA of 2.2 and have completed 24 credit hours in their first year. First-year Dual JD students must have a first semester GPA of 2.2 or higher in Comparative Legal Theory and Analysis I. 

    Watch the video to learn more about the externship program

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    Student FAQ

    Detroit Mercy School of Law Externship Course
    Student’s Guide to Frequently Asked Questions

    University of Detroit Mercy School of Law has long been a recognized leader in preparing students for the actual practice of law. We offer experiential learning through multiple in-house clinics, a comprehensive externship program and rigorous Law Firm Practice courses. The Externship Program is a cornerstone of our experiential learning program as it allows students to receive academic credit and integrate practical experience in a legal setting while working as a legal extern for a court, government agency, or nonprofit organization. A student’s externship experience is often the highlight of his or her law school experience.

    How does an externship differ from in-house clinical work? Clinic students typically have more responsibility for their clients and cases while working under the guidance of a clinical professor.

    Clinics focus on the students’ development as a lawyer, sometimes to a greater extent than may occur in an externship setting. But the clinical program operates in a controlled setting. The special value of an externship, in contrast, lies in the “real world” experience it provides:

    In-house clinics have special strengths, but most do not accurately replicate the atmosphere of law practice in terms of their office settings, workloads, and ivory tower approaches to practice. Placing students in practicing lawyers' and judges' offices removes this artificiality, and students know they are working in contexts similar to those that await them after graduation.

    Roy Stucky and Others, Best Practices for Legal Education: A Vision and a Roadmap, p. 146 (2007).

    What follows are frequently asked questions about the Externship Program, the experience and the registration and application process.

    1. WHAT IS AN EXTERNSHIP?

    The Externship course allows a Detroit Mercy Law student to earn three academic credits for working outside the law school with a court, government agency or non-profit organization. Students work under the direct supervision of a site supervisor in the office where they are placed. At the same time, they are supervised by a faculty member of the law school who co-teaches the Externship course. Students must satisfy classroom, journaling and paper requirements as set forth by the Externship faculty member, and they must additionally meet the minimum number of hours required for the field portion of the course.

    2. IS THE EXTERNSHIP COURSE A REQUIRED COURSE?

    No. Externships are elective courses that are not required for graduation, but are recommended for second- and third-year students for the practical training they provide.

    3. ARE THERE GPA REQUIREMENTS OR PRE-REQUISITES?

    All students must be in academic good standing and have a cumulative G.P.A. of 2.2 or better to enroll in the Externship course. For first year students who wish to do an externship during the summer following their first year, the American J.D. students must possess a first-semester G.P.A of 2.2 or higher and have completed 24 credits hours in their first year. First year Dual J.D. students must have a first-semester G.P.A. of 2.2 or higher in Comparative Legal Theory and Analysis I.

    Please note: Externship credits for the Dual J.D. students count toward credits required for graduation. For all students who meet the above eligibility requirements: Students may not apply to a federal judge or state appellate judge unless they meet the specific criteria required for each judge.

    4. ARE THERE INTERNAL LAW SCHOOL DEADLINES FOR APPLYING FOR THE EXTERNSHIP COURSE?

    Yes. Students will be notified when the application process begins each semester for the externship program. There will be a required information session held in the second week of each semester.

    You may submit any questions regarding externship opportunities to Rebecca Nowak, simkinrg@udmercy.edu.

    5. DOES THE LAW SCHOOL SECURE THE EXTERNSHIP PLACEMENT FOR ME?

    No. Students must find their own externship placement from a list of approved placement sites.

    The proper procedure for doing so is as follows:

    • Student registers on Career Services Office “CSO” website and then consults list of externship placements.
    • Students are to apply only for opportunities that they are eligible for, such as GPA requirements. Do not apply to a federal judge or a state appellate opportunity unless you meet the stated criteria.
    • Student submits cover letter, resume and writing sample CSO before applying to the externship placement
    • After review by the CSO, the student sends cover letter, résumé, writing sample and transcripts to the desired externship placement
    • If the student is accepted for the externship placement, the student MUST notify then complete the information about the placement in the CSO website.
    • Students will then be registered for the Externship course
    • Additional requirements apply for non-United States citizens, see Question 22.

    6. AM I REQUIRED TO SUBMIT ALL OF MY EXTERNSHIP APPLICATION MATERIALS TO THE CAREER SERVICES OFFICE?

    You should work with the CSO prior to submitting any application materials to a field placement agency or organization. CSO provides an excellent service to students and we want our students to take advantage of that service.

    7. ARE THERE ANY PLACES WHERE I CANNOT DO AN EXTERNSHIP?

    Please consult the list of approved placements as there are numerous externship opportunities for students. Note, the first externship must be done at a court, government agency or non-profit organization. We do not permit placement at a private law firm or for-profit corporation for the first externship experience.

    8. CAN I DO MY EXTERNSHIP WITH A FOR-PROFIT FIRM?

    No, unless this is your second externship experience and the placement has been pre-approved by Rebecca Nowak simkinrg@udmercy.edu.

    9. CAN I GET PAID BY THE EXTERNSHIP AGENCY?

    No. Detroit Mercy Law does not allow its students to be paid for the work done in the Externship Program unless the student has received a stipend or scholarship funded by an entity other than the field placement.

    10. WHAT IF I HAVE A CONTACT THAT CAN GET ME INTO A GREAT EXTERNSHIP THAT IS NOT ON THE LIST?

    Please contact Rebecca Nowak if you are seeking an externship that is not on the list of field placements provided to students. Please allow time for the approval process. Also, please remember that the first externship experience must be with a court, government agency or non-profit organization.

    A student may work with a for-profit organization only for the second externship placement, but the placement must be pre-approved by Rebecca Nowak. Please allow ample time for the approval process.

    11. DO I HAVE TO FORMALLY REGISTER FOR THE EXTERNSHIP COURSE?

    Yes. Once the student secures the externship placement (i.e., the pre-approved court, agency or organization agrees to work with the student), the student must update the CSO website and then your information will be submitted to the registrar who will register you for the course.

    12. HOW MANY CREDITS ARE AWARDED FOR AN EXTERNSHIP?

    Three.

    13. HOW IS THE EXTERNSHIP COURSE GRADED?

    Pass or No Pass. In order to pass the course, students must complete a minimum of 120 hours at the field placement and must complete all additional requirements of the Externship course.

    Please also note the general rule that a student may have no more than 11 credit hours of pass/no pass credits during his or her law school career.

    14. DOES THE COURSE INCLUDE A MINIMUM NUMBER OF HOURS FOR THE FIELD WORK?

    Students must complete a minimum of 120 of work at the field placement over the course of 15 weeks during the Fall and Winter semester and over the course of 8 weeks during the Summer semester. Student may begin working at the field placement no more than one week before the start of the semester and may conclude their work hours no more than one week after the end of the semester. Typically, a student will work 9 to 12 hours per week (or 18 to 24 hours during in the Summer semester). Students should consult with the site supervisor to determine how many days per week the student will work. Also, students are advised to plan on working more than the minimum 120 hours to avoid problems related to unexpected emergencies, closure of the court/agency, etc.

    15. MUST I SUBMIT WEEKLY TIME LOGS DURING THE SEMESTER?

    Yes. Students must have the site supervisor sign a weekly time log prepared by the student. The student should then submit the logs through TWEN.

    16. WHAT ARE THE ADDITIONAL COURSE REQUIREMENTS OF THE EXTERNSHIP PROGRAM?

    Students must attend an initial orientation session (to be held before or at the start of the semester) and must also attend classroom meetings that are scheduled by the faculty member teaching the Externship course. Students must also prepare weekly journals, reflection papers and a final paper. Additionally, students must review, complete and sign a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by the student, faculty member and site supervisor that describes the “substantial lawyering experience and opportunities for performance, feedback and self-evaluation” that are required by ABA Standard 304(c)(iii). This written understanding should also include “the respective roles of faculty and any site supervisor in supervising the student and in assuring the educational quality of the experience for the student[.]” Id.

    17. WHO TEACHES THE EXTERNSHIP COURSE?

    The Externship course is co-taught by Nicholas Schroeck, Associate Dean of Experiential Education, Associate Professor of Law, Director Environmental Clinic, and Rebecca Nowak, Director Clinical Operations and Outreach. Any questions should be directed to Rebecca Nowak.

    18. WHAT IS A SITE SUPERVISOR?

    “Site Supervisor” is a term used by the American Bar Association to describe the person who is responsible for supervising you at the field placement. The Site Supervisor is the extern’s contact person at the externship site. In addition to providing day-to-day supervision at the externship site, the Site Supervisor will provide a formal written evaluation of the student's performance and certify the hours worked at the completion of the term.

    19. WHAT TYPES OF DUTIES WILL I BE EXPECTED TO PERFORM?

    Duties will vary by location, but generally include research, writing, legal analysis, observation and possible court appearance.

    20. CAN I WORK FROM HOME?

    No. Externship work must be performed at the site location.

    21. ONCE MY EXTERNSHIP HAS STARTED, WHAT IF I HAVE A CONCERN ABOUT THE SITE, THE WORK, THE SUPERVISOR OR ANY OTHER ISSUE?

    As a general rule, you should first try to resolve the issue with the Site Supervisor. If this is not possible or the problem has not been resolved, students should immediately communicate with Rebecca Nowak.

    22. ARE THERE SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR NON-UNITED STATES CITIZENS?

    Yes. All non-U.S. citizens must obtain a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) application in order to receive the CPT I-20 form. The CPT application will be signed by Rebecca Nowak and I-20 forms will be distributed at the first class.

    Students who are not U.S. citizens (whether in the American J.D. or Dual Degree program) may not volunteer to work in the United States without appropriate immigration documents. As indicated above, the School of Law requires a CPT form for its non-U.S. citizens who wish to gain practical experience through an internship or externship with a legal provider. The CPT form is dependent on the student receiving academic credit and cannot be provided without the connected Externship course. In short, students may NOT volunteer with a legal provider without also taking the Externship course.

    Further, full-time non-U.S. citizen-students may not work more than 20 hours per week in the Externship course when they also maintain full-time status during the same semester. Please note full-time status is required of dual degree students during the summer following their first year.

    **Please note the United States Attorney Office does not accept non-U.S. citizens into their externship program.

    23. MAY I DO MORE THAN ONE EXTERNSHIP?

    Students are permitted to take the externship course twice, although not at the same location. A third externship is not permitted.

    You may contact Rebecca Nowak if you have questions that are not answered by this handout or should you need further clarification. simkinrg@udmercy.edu.

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    Contact

    Rebecca Simkins Nowak

    Rebecca Simkins Nowak, Esq.
    Director, Clinical Operations and Outreach
    (313) 596-9409
    simkinrg@udmercy.edu