Externships and internships provide practical, real experience
Law students cannot practice law before being admitted to the bar, but they can help other lawyers practice. UF Law offers a lot of help for students who want to do just that through externship and internships.
“The idea is to get some experience on a student’s resume,” said Pascale Bishop, assistant dean for career development. “In a market like this, when things are difficult, experience can make all the difference in terms of who an employer ends up hiring post graduate.”
Through these programs, students are able to gain real-world experience in a variety of legal settings. They also allow students to obtain exposure in a specific field and develop skills that are taught in the classroom.
Internships and externships provide an environment in which a classroom cannot simulate. Rather than discussing a the theory of law, students are given the opportunity to get their hands dirty.
“It’s great to sit in a criminal law class and debate but practicing criminal law is very different. It is much more procedural,” Bishop said.
These programs allow students to learn firsthand the value of being prepared and demonstrating a mastery of law.
The main difference between internships and externships is the academic character of an externship. Engaging in an externship also means engaging in a UF Law course.
Not for credit
Available to 1L – 3L
Available to 2L – 3L
Possibility of being paid
Free of charge
Maximum of 6 credits
Most in the public sector
Includes both public and private sector
“An externship carries with it a very important academic component,” said Leslie Knight, director of externship programs and professor of law.
Each student that completes an externship is assigned a faculty member who has expertise in the field in which the student is working. This faculty member supervises the student through regular contact and provides the student with guidance.
UF has a robust externship program with nearly 300 externs a year. These externs practice in various areas including environmental law, criminal law, child advocacy, public interest, bankruptcy law and corporate law.
Kendall Obreza, 3L, completed her externship at the State Attorney’s Office in Gainesville.
Obreza performed tasks at different stages in a case such as research, attending depositions and witness interviews, writing motions and assisting at trials.
“I had the opportunity to assist one of the attorneys at the trial of an armed carjacker… and took notes on each witness’ testimony,” Obreza said. “The attorney used my notes to formulate her closing argument.”
The jury reached a guilty verdict and the defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“It is a great opportunity for the students to think more deeply about issues concerning ethics and professionalism, guided by the faculty in those thought processes,” Knight said.
Obreza’s faculty advisor, master legal skills professor George Dekle, required her to write a journal, in which he provided feedback.
“Writing about the tasks I completed each day gave me time to reflect on those tasks individually,” Obreza said. “It was interesting and enlightening to hear his thoughts on my journal entries, given that they were those of a highly experienced and successful prosecutor.”
Externships are limited to second- and third-year law students and are unpaid. In fact, students pay tuition. Internships can be completed by students at any level, and may be paid.
“Because (internships) do not have that academic structure around it, they are a lot more malleable,” Bishop said.
In association with the employer, students can choose their start and end dates and the number of hours they work.
“We want everyone to come away with some kind of legal experience their first summer and because internships are so flexible they can be worked around a class schedule or can be worked around a paying job,” Bishop said.
That’s what 2L Kaitlin Cupp did.
“I got to pick my start and ends dates and they let me take 6 weeks off in the middle to do the UF Law France abroad program,” Cupp said.
Cupp earned a weekly salary while gaining more practical legal experience after her first year by interning at Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart, & Shipley, P.A., a personal injury firm in West Palm Beach.
She obtained experience and built personal relationships. Her duties included drafting complaints and other pleadings, completing legal research, sitting in on depositions, mediations, hearings, and meeting with clients.
“It was a great firsthand look at how a medium-sized firm functions,” Cupp said.
Cupp attributes her broader understanding of the legal system to her internship. She now has a greater knowledge of the time, research and networking that goes into being a plaintiff’s attorney.
“I learned that networking and building personal relationships is one of the most important parts of being an attorney, especially a plaintiff’s attorney, Cupp said. “Interacting with clients and other attorneys is the most important part of the job.”
For externship information, contact Leslie Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. For internship information, contact Pascale Bishop at email@example.com or 352-273-0860. To find more information on international and national internships visit pslawnet.org. This searchable database allows students to find internship positions by organization or by opportunity.
- Marcela Suter