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. 2L and 3L students receive 3-4 credit hours for working 12-15 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 as well as a common application for all externships. If you have questions or would like additional information, please email Professor Sheila Maloney, Director of Externships, or contact her by appointment in Swen Parson Hall, Room 197B.
- Appellate Defender Program
- Bankruptcy Help Desk Externship
- Bridge to Practice Externship - Chicago
- Bridge to Practice Externship - Springfield
- Civil Externship
- Criminal Law Externship
- Huskie Athletics Externship
- Illinois Innocence Project Externship
- Judicial Externship
- Juvenile Court Externship
The Appellate Advocacy Course and Externship are taught and supervised by Thomas Lillien, Director of the Second District Appellate Defenders Office in Elgin, IL and Peter Carusona, Director of the Third District Appellate Defenders Office in Ottawa, IL. Each attorney brings more than thirty years of appellate experience to the program. In the Fall semester, Mr. Lillien and Mr. Carusona teach the Appellate Advocacy course at the College of Law. In the Spring semester, they oversee the Appellate Defender Externship, supervising students at their respective offices.
The Appellate Defender Externship is a full-semester course in which students receive three hours of credit for working approximately 12 hours per week in offices of the Illinois Appellate Defender. Students participating in the externship work under the supervision of staff attorneys. Typical activities include researching; writing briefs, memoranda, and motions; and observing oral arguments in criminal appellate cases. Students must take Appellate Advocacy to be eligible.
The experience gained in this program is excellent preparation for students participating in both internal and external moot court competitions. Further, participation in the course and externship has opened doors for numerous students to find careers in appellate work, including judicial law clerks at the state and federal level.
Professor Lenny Mandell is the coordinator for both the course and the 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. This is a new externship and we are eager for students to enroll as the inaugural group. For further information about this externship, please contact Professor Wendy Vaughn.
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 12 credit hours for successful completion of their fieldwork and coursework. This is a new externship and we are eager for students to enroll as the inaugural group. For further information about this externship, please contact Professor Sheila Maloney.
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 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. Students will also participate in a distance learning course component with Professors Amy Widman and Sheila Maloney. This is a new externship and we are eager for students to enroll as the inaugural group. For further information about this externship, please contact Professor Amy Widman.
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. Students are required to work 12 hours per week at their placement sites and meet once a week for the course seminar. During the summer, there is no classroom component for the Civil Externship, and students are required to work 24 hours per week for 8 weeks at their placement sites and receive three hours of credit.
Civil Externship Testimonials (must have NIU Law student ID to access)
For more information or questions, contact Director of Externships Sheila Maloney.
“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
- Civil Externship Supervisor Handbook (.pdf)
- Civil Externship Approved Placements (.pdf)
- Civil Externship Student Informational Guide (.pdf)
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. Each student is assigned to spend 12-15 hours per week at offices in DeKalb, Winnebago, Boone, DuPage, or Kane County. Participating offices are selected on the basis of their willingness and ability to provide the student with a sound educational experience under the supervision of highly-qualified practicing attorneys. (Placements include state criminal prosecutor and public defender offices.)
Placements may also be available in the summer for 24 hours per week for 8 weeks (3 credit hours). The program is limited to third-year students who have taken Lawyering Skills or Trial Advocacy and Professional Responsibility.
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.
Professor Lenny Mandell is the coordinator for the externship and the classroom component.
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.
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 minumim of 12 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.
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 Professor David Taylor.
(From left to right:) Professor Anita Maddali, UIS Professor Gwen Jordan, Dean Jennifer Rosato, Anthony Murray (exonerate) and John Hanlon, IIP Executive and Legal Director.
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 Dr. Gwen Jordan, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at UIS and staff attorney for the Innocence Project. Also instructing and supervising will be John Hanlon, IIP Executive and Legal Director; Larry Golden, IIP Founding Director; Erica Nichols Cook, staff attorney responsible for non-DNA wrongful conviction cases, and Lauren Kaeseberg, staff attorney responsible for DNA wrongful conviction cases. Dr. Jordan (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: This class has limited enrollment, and requires a short application. Download an application or contact Le Ann Baie in Swen Parson Hall room 190 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Students should submit their applications to Le Ann by the end of registration for best consideration. Completed applications will be sent to the Illinois Innocence Project in Springfield, where the IIP staff will make the final selection of students who will participate.
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?
Download an application form, pick one up from Le Ann Baie in Swen Parson Hall room 190 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Complete the application and submit it with your resume to Le Ann Baie. You can do this at anytime, but 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 12 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?
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 12 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.
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 Professor David Taylor.
Student participating in the Juvenile Court Externship assist in preparing for and prosecuting neglect and delinquency cases in court. An additional portion of the experience may also involve Victim-Offender Restorative Justice Mediation of pending juvenile delinquency matters under the direction of certified mediators and the Juvenile Prosecutor at the Office of the County State’s Attorney. The Juvenile Court Externship is offered for three hours of credit. Enrollment in a separate one credit hour classroom component may be required.