By Colleen Hampton
It is that time of year, folks: time to consider experiential learning opportunities. The deadline for Spring 2018 Clinic and Externship opportunities is September 27th. And if you started school in 2016 you are required to obtain at least six (6) credit hours of experiential learning (see ABA rule 303 a Curriculum, March 2015). Your required, 3 credit hour, Lawyering: Advocacy class will get you part of the way there – but you must do more. Besides, who among us doesn’t want to get a taste of how the practice of law works in the real world?
Luckily GSU COL offers externships, clinics, and other courses designed to help you gain practical, real-world experience while satisfying ABA requirements. Here’s what you need to know about these opportunities:
What’s the difference between an Internship, Externship, and a Clinic?
Whether you are interested in an Internship, Externship, or Clinic one thing is for certain: you will gain valuable experience regardless of the avenue you choose. However, there are some important distinctions to consider when evaluating your experiential learning choices.
Internships – Internships are a fantastic way to gain skills and build your network. You are generally hired by a firm or agency, typically without pay (unless you are one of the lucky few to land a coveted, paid internship). Internship hours can vary from position to position and terms of your service can sometimes be negotiated to fit your schedule. Sounds great, right? Keep in mind internships are not for-credit, meaning you don’t pay tuition for the internship or get credit hours needed to satisfy the ABA requirement. In other words, internships are valuable in their own right and should be pursued, but an internship will not satisfy your experiential learning requirement.
Externships – An externship is a class that gives you the opportunity to learn from non-profit and government lawyers and judges. Because an externship is a class, you earn credit for your outside, hands-on learning experience and the class credit can help you satisfy the ABA experiential learning requirement. You will pay tuition for your externship (usually a three (3) credit hour course, graded pass/fail) and, if it’s your first externship, you have a one (1) credit graded classroom component in addition to your work hours. Speaking of work hours, externships require a minimum hour commitment spent working (generally ten (10) hours a week during the Fall and Spring semesters or twenty (20) hours a week during the summer semester). Externship site supervisors are required to give you feedback on your performance during your semester which enables you to learn and grow. Externships are a meaningful way to satisfy your experiential learning requirement.
Clinics – Clinics provide students the opportunity to work with and represent real clients, and to directly experience what it feels like to work as a lawyer while building their skills and professional identity. Students have primary responsibility for the cases they handle in clinic, and work under the close supervision of their professor, who is both a clinical educator and a licensed attorney. Enrolling in a clinic requires attendance in the clinic seminar, case rounds, and hours working on cases inside the clinic office. GSU COL offers both in-house and off-site clinics to provide students with a variety of opportunities to grow their skill set. Clinics, like externships, are a fantastic way for students to satisfy their experiential learning requirement.
What is the difference between in-house clinics and other clinics offered at GSU COL?
GSU College of Law offers three in-house clinics: Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic, Investor Advocacy Clinic, and the Philip C. Cook Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. These clinics conduct business on campus and are supervised by professors of the College of Law. Additionally, the in-house clinics are graded where the off-site clinics are pass/fail.
Off-site clinic courses require a yearlong commitment (fall and spring). Students attend a clinic seminar taught by an adjunct professor and perform their work at the external office location. Off-site clinics include Capital Defender Clinic, Landlord-Tenant Mediation Clinic, and Olmstead Disability Rights Clinic.
I’m a 1L, can I enroll in a Clinic or Externship?
Most experiential opportunities provided through GSU COL are only available to students who have completed their entire first year’s course work and have a 2.3 GPA. If you are a part-time student that means you must have completed your first two years of course work in order to be eligible. However, each experiential opportunity will have their own pre-requisites that must be satisfied in order to participate.
Where can I learn more about Clinics and Externships?
What other courses satisfy the experiential course requirement?
All courses that satisfy the experiential requirement are designated as “E” courses in the schedule and the college of law bulletin. “E” courses include clinics, externships, simulation courses, and others. You can also find a listing of E courses here.
What are the deadlines for application to clinics and externships?
Applications for SPRING semester clinics and externships are due at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 27.