In the externship component, students apply what they learn in the corporate counsel class and other law school courses in a real-world setting. The externship provides students with an unparalleled insight into what in-house attorneys actually do as well as the opportunity to view the practice of law from the client’s perspective. In addition to performing legal tasks consistent with the learning objectives of the program, students learn through observational opportunities. They shadow attorneys, watching how they conduct themselves in meetings, communicate with other attorneys, and advise their business colleagues.
Externs are selected through a competitive application process and assigned to legal departments based on practice area and industry interests they identified when they applied. They each work approximately 10 hours per week for a minimum of 120 hours.
Students are not compensated for work done at their placements; they receive four hours academic credit for successfully completing the course and their externship placements.
Most corporate counsel handle a very wide variety of matters. Similarly, the corporations participating in the Program operate across many different industries, including consumer packaged goods, health care, retail, transportation, and construction. Accordingly, externs’ projects and experiences are just as broad and varied and encompass a wide-ranging assortment of legal and business issues.
Some of the most meaningful learning projects in the past have been short, written assignments that allow attorneys to critique a student’s analytical, research and writing skills.
Extern projects are as broad and varied as the different companies participating in the prorgam. By way of example, student projects have included:
- Reviewing and summarizing a piece of legislation or industry development
- Researching discrete legal issues connected to a larger project and preparing a memorandum
- Assisting attorneys with an agreement and allowing the student to observe the agreement evolve from the first draft to the closing
- Working on compliance checklists and schedules to allow a student to delve into regulations.
- Helping with projects involving both legal and accounting issues to learn about how the legal and accounting departments within a company work together.
- Reviewing contracts for certain key provisions and preparing a summary of those provisions.
- Describing a business problem to the student and asking him or her to review the applicable law, consider other relevant, non-legal factors and recommend a proposed business solution.
- Reviewing proposed advertisements, product labeling, and promotional materials for compliance with applicable law
- Working on projects that require written and oral communications to business clients
In addition to performing legal tasks, students can often effectively learn through observational opportunities. Through these experiences, students will gain an appreciation of a business lawyer’s perspective. For example:
- Visiting with students about topics they learn about in the classroom component of the Program, as well as observations about our legal system, the practice of law and career opportunities
- Allowing externs to shadow attorneys in the department. Taking externs to meetings with business people, including them in telephone conferences with outside counsel and letting them observe negotiations. Watching how attorneys conduct themselves in meetings, communicate with outside counsel and opposing counsel, and interact with internal “clients” can be invaluable learning experiences.
- Showing a student a legal invoice from outside counsel. Discussing various sections of the invoice with him or her, and visiting about which time descriptions are the most helpful and why. Also talking about any concerns that might be raised or matters that will need to be discussed further with outside counsel.
- Sharing written and unwritten policies on the use of outside counsel, including outside counsel guidelines.
- Inviting externs to activities involving other members of the legal department, such as informal lunches or birthday celebrations. Such activities help students learn the importance of teamwork as well as meet the other attorneys and professionals in the office.
- Discussing relationships with outside counsel as well as how the department selects, evaluates and compensates outside counsel.
- Reviewing shareholder and customer information with externs to help them learn about the company's business. Public companies can provide externs with the company’s annual report and other securities law filings.
We also visit with students periodically to help them reflect on what they are learning in the legal departments in which they are working. And through the classroom component and required readings, we supplement what externs are learning first-hand at their placements.
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