Externships

The externship program offers you opportunities to earn academic credit while performing real legal work in outside placements. Placements are allowed essentially anywhere other than private law firms: students may extern with for-profit companies, government, non-profit entities, judicial chambers, and other entities. (Externships are allowed at private law firms only if the work is entirely pro bono or strictly on behalf of a government entity.)

Law student externs work on active legal matters alongside supervising attorneys who provide feedback and guidance. Externships provide practical, real-world experience and connections that often prove to be advantages when entering the job market. You may be paid by an externship employer and may also use externships to fulfill your experiential learning requirement.

Externships for academic credit require 12 hours per week of work at your placement, and you must also attend a classroom component for one hour per week. Externships are available only if you have previously completed at least three semesters’ worth of course work toward your degree. (See Student Handbook (PDF), §3.13.5.) Externs earn four credit hours per semester, and the course satisfies students' experiential learning requirement for graduation.

Summer externships are more flexible than fall and spring externships, but because students benefit most from an experience that extends as long as a typical semester, some guidelines are in place.

  • For a summer externship you must work a total of 168 hours between May 21 and August 12.
  • You also must work a minimum of 16 hours per week for a period of at least seven weeks of your summer externship.
  • Although you may work more, you may not earn credit for more than 40 hours in a week.

For summer, fall and spring externships, work schedules will be determined by agreement among you, the externship director and placement supervisor.

If you would like to apply to participate in the College of Law externship program, have questions or would like additional information, please review the appropriate externship handbook and feel free to contact the director of externships, Justice Jack O'Malley, at lawexternship@niu.edu. Please note that you must secure an externship placement with an employer before applying. See the FAQ on how to find an externship placement.

Externship Programs

For more information or questions about externships, please email the director, Justice Jack O'Malley, at lawexternship@niu.edu.

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In the Civil Externship program you are immersed in the practice of law under the supervision of attorneys in placements that can include for-profit companies, government, non-profit entities, and some other entities (but not private law firms unless you do only pro bono or government work). You will engage in many aspects of civil practice, which may include counseling clients, planning and other aspects of litigation, legal research and memorandum writing, negotiating with opposing parties, representing clients before administrative and judicial tribunals and transactional work. Prerequisites for this externship are Professional Responsibility (643) and Introduction to Lawyering Skills (720).

In the Criminal Law Externship you are supervised directly by experienced assistant state's attorneys and assistant public defenders. You are encouraged to use 711 licenses to appear in court for motions, hearings and trials. You are able to apply the skills you have acquired in the Lawyering Skills and Trial Advocacy courses. The training received in this program has prepared many students for successful careers in criminal law, including positions at the offices of the state's attorneys and public defenders.

Prerequisites for this externship are Professional Responsibility (643) and Introduction to Lawyering Skills (720). Trial Advocacy (725), Criminal Procedure (601) and Criminal Procedure (602), and Evidence (655) are highly recommended. You must also have a 711 license to participate in this program and have a grade point average of 2.2 or higher.

The Judicial Externship Program provides you with the opportunity to observe and participate in the legal process from the unique vantage point of the judiciary, while using and improving your research, writing and analytical skills. The program is limited to third-year students with a GPA of 2.8 or higher. As with other types of externships, you must secure a placement with an employer before completing an applicationPrerequisites for this externship are Professional Responsibility (643) and Introduction to Lawyering Skills (720).

Through the Bridge to Practice Externship, third-year students work as legal externs for 40 hours per week. You receive twelve credit hours for completion of your field work and course work. The Bridge to Practice externship is designed to provide hands-on, practical learning experience to bridge the gap between classroom knowledge and professional experience, and help students transition from students to practicing lawyers. This externship is open only to students in their third year of study, with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Prerequisites for this externship are Professional Responsibility (643) and Introduction to Lawyering Skills (720).

Past Bridge to Practice externs have worked full-time in Springfield, Illinois with a member of the state legislature or a state agency. However, Bridge to Practice externships may be performed in any part of the state, with government or non-government employers.