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The NIU College of Law offers opportunities for students to work on real cases while in law school and receive real-time feedback on their legal skills through externships. NIU Law student externs work for a semester (including summer) in a government entity, non-profit agency, or judges’ chambers to provide legal services to real clients under the guidance of a supervising attorney or a judge. 2L students in their second semester who have a GPA of 2.8 or higher (at the time of their application) and 3L students receive 3-4 credit hours for working twelve-15 hours per week at the extern placement and/or attending a companion seminar. All coursework is graded pass/fail.

Below is a list of current NIU externship options. If you would like to apply, have questions or would like additional information, please email Justice Jack O'Malley at or contact him by appointment in Swen Parson Hall, room 197E.

Potential externs as well as externship coordinators should also download and be familiar with the externship handbook.

Summer Externship Application (.pdf)

Fall Externship Application (.pdf)

Summer 2017 Externship Handbook (.pdf)

Externships may fill quickly depending on the placement. Please apply early and speak to your site supervisor about placement and requirements so that you are ready to hit the ground running when school begins.

Bankruptcy Help Desk Externship

The Bankruptcy Help Desk is an externship supervised by bankruptcy attorneys at the Federal Courthouse in Rockford, IL. NIU will students partner with Prairie State Legal Services’ attorneys to assist pro se litigants filing for bankruptcy. Students will receive civil externship credits for their participation. For further information about this externship, please contact Professor Wendy Vaughn.

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Bridge to Practice Externship - Chicago

The Purpose of the Bridge-to-Practice Externship (BTPE) is to facilitate and increase the successful transition for NIU COL graduates entering the Chicago legal community. This externship is designed to provide hands-on, practical learning experience to bridge the gap between classroom knowledge and professional experience for a cohort of NIU law students. These students will be supported as they transition from a third year law student to a practicing, employed member of the bar. The BTPE can be likened to a residency or apprenticeship that allows students a sampling of legal practice while providing them a supervised academic environment to help them process and contextualize their experience with their colleagues and NIU Law faculty. Students will be placed in an approved Chicago externship site determined by student interest and placement availability. Students will work as legal externs for 40 hours per week during their final semester of law school. Students will receive twelve credit hours for successful completion of their fieldwork and coursework. For further information about this externship, please email Justice Jack O'Malley at

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Bridge to Practice Externship - Springfield

The Government/Legislative Policy Externship is an excellent capstone project for those interested in a government career. Students spend a full semester in a field placement in Springfield, Illinois. Students work full-time with a member of the Illinois legislature or a state agency or other government/legislative office and earn a full semester’s worth of credits. This externship is designed to allow students to acquire legislative drafting skills, as well as a greater understanding of the political process. This externship is available to third-year (3L) students in their final semester of law school. Students will also participate in a distance learning course component with Professor Anita Maddali. For further information about this externship, please contact Professor Maddali.

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Civil Externship

Students in the Civil Externship program are immersed in the practice of law under the supervision of regional legal services lawyers or supervising attorneys in other placements including non-profit organizations and governmental or corporate offices. Students engage in all aspects of civil practice including counseling clients, planning and preparing litigation, negotiating with opposing parties, and representing clients before administrative and judicial tribunals. The Civil Externship is offered for three hours of credit and requires enrollment in a separate one credit hour classroom component during the fall and spring semesters. The classroom component is required in the summer, and it will be offered as an online course for the summer of 2017. Students are required to work twelve hours per week at their placement sites and meet once a week for the course seminar. During the summer, students are required to work 24 hours per week for 8 weeks at their placement sites and receive three hours of credit for the placement, and one hour for the online course.

Requirements: All students must have taken as a pre-requisite or be taking as a co-requisite both lawyering skills and professional responsibility. 2L students must have a GPA of 2.8 or higher.

Civil Externship Testimonials (must have NIU Law student ID to access)

For more information or questions, email Justice Jack O'Malley at

“Participating in the civil externship program was, without question, the single greatest choice I made during law school. As an extern with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, I handled cases, participated in strategy meetings, and presented recommendations to the Board. I was treated just like a staff attorney, which I became soon after graduation. I simply cannot recommend externing enough." - Matt Nagy, Class of 2014

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Criminal Law Externship

The Criminal Law Externship Program is a spring semester course for which students receive four hours of credit. Enrollment in a separate one credit hour classroom component is required. For the summer semester, the classroom component will be taught as an online course.

Placements may also be available in the summer for 24 hours per week for eight weeks (three credit hours). Pre-/co-requisites for this externship are Professional Responsibility and Lawyering Skills. Trial Advocacy is a recommended course for students planning on this externship, as well. 2L students must have a GPA of 2.8 or higher to participate.

Students in the externship are supervised directly by experienced assistant state's attorneys and assistant public defenders. They are allowed and encouraged to use 711 licenses to appear in court for motions, hearings, and trials. Externs are able to use the pre-trial skills they have acquired in the Lawyering Skills course and the trial skills they have learned in the Trial Advocacy Course.

The training received in this program has prepared many students to begin successful careers in criminal law, including positions at the offices of the state's attorneys and public defenders.

Justice Jack O'Malley supervises criminal externships. Please email Justice O'Malley at for more details.

Please see the FAQs above regarding frequently asked questions about this externship.

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Federal Defender Externship

This is a full-year externship in the Federal Defender's Office in Rockford, IL. It will require a twelve hour-per-week commitment for three hours of credit each semester. This externship does not require a 711 license. The extern will be supervised on-site by Federal Public Defender Paul Gaziano. You will research and write memoranda, motions and briefs for pre-trial and post-conviction issues and sentencing hearings. In addition, you will attend and observe various court proceedings. Professor Paul Cain will be the faculty supervisor with whom you will meet on a regular basis to discuss your experience. Students do not provide direct client representation since there is no federal student practice rule equivalent to an Illinois Rule 711. Please contact Professor Paul Cain if you have any questions.

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Huskie Athletics Externship

The Intercollegiate Athletics Externship in the NIU Huskie Athletics Compliance Office seeks to provide 2L and 3L students at the NIU College of Law with the opportunity to experience the practice of law within intercollegiate athletic administration. Students are immersed in issues concerning NCAA regulation compliance, as well as many other aspects of collegiate athletic administration.

Externship Announcement

This externship experience is especially suited for students who are considering a career in athletic administration and/or have experience as an NCAA student athlete. Participating students work a minimum of twelve hours per week during the fall or spring semesters (20 hours per week during the eight week summer term) and receive three hours of academic credit, awarded on a pass/fail basis.

Statement of Purpose and Educational Objectives

Students interested in participating in the Huskie Athletics Externship Program should complete an application and meet with the faculty supervisor. An interview will be scheduled with the associate athletic director. All placements are subject to the approval of the associate athletic director and the faculty supervisor.

For further information or to apply contact faculty supervisor Associate Dean Marc Falkoff

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Illinois Innocence Project Externship

Law students at NIU have the opportunity to conduct an externship with the Illinois Innocence Project (IIP). The IIP handles cases of those who are convicted and imprisoned for serious crimes that they did not commit.

The project assists the wrongfully convicted in their claims of actual innocence by providing resources for investigation, research, and legal representation. The IIP is an active participant in the National Innocence Network founded and developed out of the work of Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of Cardozo Law School in New York. Scheck and Neufeld established The Innocence Project in 1992, and have, through the use of DNA testing, exposed national, widespread, wrongful convictions of the innocent. The Innocence Project has achieved over 300 exonerations

The IIP accepts cases that involve DNA testing and non-DNA cases that involve other factors common in wrongful convictions, such as eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, ineffective counsel, unreliable forensic evidence, and/or prosecutorial or police misconduct. (Visit the IIP website for more information on the causes of wrongful convictions.)

The IIP office is located in the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) Center for State Policy and Leadership. It works with UIS undergraduate and Masters students and with law students from the three Illinois public law schools: University of Illinois College of Law, Southern Illinois University Law School, and Northern Illinois University School of Law.

The law students have the unique opportunity to work off-site at their law schools with arrangements for document security and supervision. They may engage in legal research, case evaluation, drafting of motions and petitions for post-conviction relief, interviews of witnesses and potential clients at prisons, and court appearances with lawyers working on a case. As part of the experience, they will learn how to access, review, and interpret information critical to determining whether the individuals are actually innocent. The work is performed under strict guidelines of confidentiality and the Rules of Professional Conduct.

This externship at NIU is taught primarily by Adjunct Professor Lauren Kaeseberg, staff attorney for the Innocence Project. Professor Kaeseberg (and possibly others from the IIP) will meet with the NIU students approximately three to four times during the semester in DeKalb, but most of the work will be completed by students individually, under the direction of an IIP attorney. A limited amount of travel to gather documents or visit a client might also be required. 

Application for enrollment: To apply please email Justice Jack O'Malley at

For more information, go to the IIP website.

Frequently Asked Questions

How and when do I apply for an externship with the Illinois Innocence Project?

To apply please email Justice Jack O'Malley at For your best chance of acceptance, submit your application before the end of registration for the following semester.

Are there required prerequisites for the externship?

Only 2L and 3L students are eligible to sign up for the externship. There are no absolute prerequisites required, however it is required that the student has completed professional responsibility or takes professional responsibility simultaneous to the externship. It is also strongly preferred that the student either has completed or takes simultaneous to the externship: criminal procedure and evidence.

How is the externship graded?

The externship is offered as a for credit course on a pass/fail basis.

May I volunteer for the project without completing an externship?

Yes, you may volunteer for the project without having to sign up or pay for an externship. You are still required to complete an application. You can count the hours that you volunteer towards earning a pro bono certificate.

What is the time commitment?

You are expected to work twelve hours a week for the project during the fall and spring semesters. During the summer semester you are expected to complete 168 hours for the project.

Because innocence work takes such a long time to accomplish, it is expected that you will hold the externship for two consecutive semesters (summer/fall, fall/spring, or spring/summer).

Where will I complete my work for the project?

Most of the work can be completed in DeKalb. You will have access to all the records in your case through the internet. You may have the opportunity to go on a prison visit to meet your client or travel to interview witnesses or gather information, but those visits can be negotiated and scheduled individually.

What type of work will I do for the externship?

You will be required to complete an orientation course that involves reading books, articles, cases, and statutes as well as watching a video presented by the IIP staff.

You will then be assigned one or possibly two cases of IIP clients. One of the IIP attorneys will oversee your work on the case. Depending on the stage of the case (if it’s a new client or a case that previous students have worked on) you will be asked to participate in reviewing documents, organizing information, undergoing investigations, drafting Freedom of Information requests, drafting motions, interviewing witnesses, visiting the client, and possibly arguing a motion in court.

You will be required to keep a journal in which you will write weekly entries about the work you are doing as well as your thoughts, observations, and reflections. You will also be required to keep track of your hours and turn in a weekly hours sheet. (This is to meet the federal grant requirements. It will also give you good practice on filling out time sheets if you ever work for a law firm). Finally, at the end of the semester you will be required to write a case memo summarizing the work you have completed on the case and what needs to be completed next.

What if I don’t want to be a criminal defense attorney? Is the IIP still right for me?

Yes, an externship with the IIP is great experience for students who want to be prosecutors or judges or any other type of lawyer. Several former IIP externs are now prosecuting attorneys. They assert that they are better prosecutors because of their experience with the project. Innocence work is about ensuring that it is the guilty who are punished, not the innocent. It is about securing justice.

How do I know my client is innocent?

The IIP only handles cases in which the client is making a claim of innocence. Undergraduate students at UIS screen the cases initially. They assess whether the potential client is making a claim of actual innocence, whether s/he is serving a substantial sentence for a serious felony, and whether his or her case occurred in Illinois. The IIP staff and students then review the cases that make it through the initial screening process. We assess whether there is any potential new evidence (ie: evidence that could be tested for DNA or a witness that has recanted) in the case that could be used to support a claim of innocence. It is impossible to know for certain at this stage whether the potential client is actually innocent, however, often as we work the cases and meet the client, we come to believe strongly in his or her innocence. You may work on the case whether or not you come to share this belief.

Has the Illinois Innocence Project had any successes in getting innocent people out of prison?

Yes, since its inceptions in 2003, the IIP has contributed to getting six innocent people released from prison

What happens to exonerees after they leave prison? Are there opportunities for students to assist in those services?

There are some Life After Innocence programs that help exonerees readjust to life outside of prison. Students, lawyers and community members can volunteer or work for these organizations. They assist with everything from securing clothing and toiletries to housing and employment. They also file motions for certificates of innocence (where possible) so that exonerees may collect compensation from the state. In Illinois, Loyola University Chicago School of Law has a Life After Innocence program

Where do I go for more information?

Visit the Illinois Innocence Project website.

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Judicial Externship

The Judicial Externship Program provides students with the opportunity to observe and participate in the legal process from the unique vantage point of the judiciary. The primary educational goal of the program is to allow student externs to gain insight into the judicial process, as well as to utilize and improve their research, writing and analytical skills. The program is limited to third year students with a GPA of 2.8 or higher. Participating students work twelve hours per week for a supervising judge during the fall or spring semesters (24 hours per week during the eight week summer term) and receive three hours of academic credit, awarded on a pass/fail basis.

Statement of Purpose and Educational Objectives

Students interested in participating in the Judicial Externship Program should complete an application and meet with the faculty supervisor to discuss their interests, such as civil suits versus criminal matters, as well as any specific interests within those parameters, i.e., family law, probate, domestic violence, felony prosecutions, etc. The faculty supervisor and applicants will work together to determine appropriate potential placements. The faculty supervisor then submits the student’s credentials to the proposed supervising judge, who may then interview the student. All placements are subject to the approval of the supervising judge and the faculty supervisor.

For further information or to apply contact faculty supervisor Associate Dean Marc Falkoff.

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Judicial Externship FAQs

What kind of judicial externship placements are available?

In recent years students have had judicial externships in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate levels, as well as with administrative law judges. Students have clerked for judges who hear criminal cases, civil cases, probate, domestic violence, family law, or other specialties. In short, we will work together to find you a placement in your area of interest.

Where are the placements located?

In recent years students have had placements ranging north to south from Madison, Wisconsin to Bloomington, Illinois; and east to west, from Chicago to Rock Island, and all points in between.

If I am interested, what should I do?

Email Justice Jack O'Malley at to talk about what kind of experience you are most interested in. That means: type of court, area of law, and geographic preference. You and he will then talk through the available options and mutually decide what seems like the best fit before you complete the application process.

If I already have a judge I want to work for, may I do my externship there?

Justice O'Malley will contact the judge, explain our program, and determine whether the placement fits within our program. The main criteria is whether the judge will give you a meaningful experience that exposes you to the judicial decision making process.

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Walgreens Externship

Under the general supervision of an attorney, the extern will be required to apply advanced knowledge of complex legal concepts and processes to assist in the more efficient operation of the law department by undertaking a variety of duties. In this position, the individual will work with members of the Retail Products (Merchandising), Owned Brands and Corporate Social Responsibility legal team on a variety of projects, including transactional and regulatory matters, and participate in meetings with team members from these business units.

Responsibilities and Preferred Experience

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FAQs for Civil and Criminal Externships (applicable for spring 2017)

What is a civil or criminal externship?

An externship is when you as an NIU Law student secure a placement for a semester in a public-interest or government agency to provide legal services in real cases under the guidance of a supervising attorney.

How many credits will I get? Are the credits graded?

You receive 4 credit hours for the semester while working twelve hours per week at your placement,* and meeting once a week for a general externship course. The class for spring of 2017 meets on Mondays from 4:00 to 4:50 and will meet online (time TBD) for summer 2017. All credits are pass/fail.

*A placement may allow you to do some hours remotely, but that is handled individually between students/supervisors.

I have a conflict with the class. Can I just enroll in a criminal or civil externship without taking the course?

No. The course is required as part of the externship.

How do I enroll for this course?

You must complete the application and be approved. If you are approved, you will be automatically enrolled in the course per Justice Jack O'Malley. You are responsible for securing your externship placement, but NIU College of Law can help.

Do I need a 711 license to participate in an externship?

For all students doing a criminal externship – yes. For students doing a civil externship, generally no, but if you have a 711 license, you are eligible to perform a wider range of tasks. You may apply for 711 license with Julie Mahoney-Krzyzek in room 285.

How do I secure my externship placement?

Securing an externship placement is a straight-forward process with three steps. First, you think about where you would like to work for a semester. If you are unsure or have no idea what your options are, see the list below of places NIU students have externed in the recent past or schedule a meeting with Justice Jack O'Malley. Second, send your resume and cover letter to your list of desired placements (samples of both are available here). Third, interview and select a placement.

Where were some recent placements made for civil externships (spring and fall)?

  • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
  • Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights
  • Chicago Medical – Legal Partnership for Children
  • Chicago Park District Legal Department
  • City of Naperville Law Department
  • Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project
  • The Joint Commission (health care accreditation non-profit)
  • Illinois Education Labor Relations Board
  • Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago
  • Metropolitan Family Services: Legal Aid Society
  • Prairie State Legal Services
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Working Hands Legal Clinic

Where were some recent placements made for criminal externships (spring and fall)?

Public defender and state's attorney's offices of the following counties: Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Ogle and Winnebago.

I’m confused. Will you find my placement, or do I have to find my placement?

You are ultimately responsible for securing an externship placement. If you email Justice Jack O'Malley at, he can and will assist you, but you must apply to the site you want to extern at and follow their protocols.

I want to work at a placement site where no NIU extern has worked before, can I do that?

Absolutely. Each of the sites on the above lists was once a “new” site. As long as your placement is non-profit or government entity and you have a licensed attorney supervising your legal work, and this attorney is willing to supervise you per the guidelines in the NIU Externship Handbook, you can do it.

I’ve got a busy schedule. Why should I consider adding an externship into the mix?

With an externship, you gain the kind of practical experience that legal employers desire in new law graduates. You also expand the number of lawyers in your personal network. All of this means better job prospects for you, because employers know that you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

What if I can’t or don’t find an externship?

The College of Law can help! Please email Justice Jack O'Malley at and he will be happy to assist you, particularly with organizations that have a good relationship with NIU Law. He can also assist you in learning about organizations that match your interests that may be seeking externs, as well as offer resume and cover letter advice. However, you may not find everything you want in a placement that is available and conducive to your schedule. It is best to plan ahead well in advance of the time you will be applying. 

Can I repeat the same general civil or criminal externship in a new semester?

Generally, no. The exception to this rule is if you can demonstrate that the experience will be "substantially different" than the one you had the previous semester. This generally means switching departments and/or supervisors so that the substance of the legal work changes. 

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