The for-credit Civil and Judicial Externship Program is Suffolk Law's largest extern program, enrolling about 75 students each year.

Day students are eligible beginning in the summer after First Year. Evening students are eligible after three semesters.

Students must take the two-credit Legal Process and Practice course concurrent with the externship or, in some cases, be supervised individually by a full-time faculty member. All legal work is performed under the supervision of a lawyer. Students find and apply independently for a one-semester externship.

Opportunities exist in courts, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private law firms or corporations. 

  • One semester (available beginning summer after first year for day students, after three semesters for evening students)
  • 2-5 credits (depending on total hours worked)

Formal Registration

Nature of work

Student performs legal work under the supervision of a lawyer in an approved field placement.

Faculty supervision

A Faculty Supervisor oversees the field work and serves as a professional guide.

Journal and final paper requirement

The student submits biweekly narrative journals and biweekly time logs reviewed and signed by the supervisor. The journals include student observations concerning the role of the lawyer, the dynamics of the legal system, and his or her own experience.

Field Placement

Students may earn from 2-5 credits per semester for their field placement work. One credit is earned for each 45 hours of legal work in the field. Credit for the field placement work is received on a pass/fail basis. Students may distribute the hours to be worked as they choose during the semester with the approval of the Field Supervisor. The Supervising Professor must approve the number of credits appropriate for the student and the given placement in order to guarantee that the program's educational objectives are met.

Classroom Component

Legal Process and Practice - 2 credits day; 2 credits evening; Spring 2022 (Mary Sawicki)

This course is required for all students registered for a legal externship. The two credits granted for this course are in addition to and independent of any credits awarded for that field placement experience. This classroom component will cover topics including ethical issues relating to externships; economic, social and moral issues in the legal profession; workplace skills; and discussion of field experiences. For their externship placement, students are required to keep regular journals which also will be discussed in this class. Readings and class participation are essential components of the course. An in-class oral presentation on a topic related to the student's fieldwork experience is required. An extended journal on an ethical issue is required. The paper will not satisfy the writing requirement. Student work is graded on a H/P/LP/F basis. This course does not fulfill the academic requirement for externships through Suffolk University Law School and the Center for International Legal Studies.

As an alternative to the Legal Process and Practice course, students can be supervised individually by a full-time faculty member only if the student has taken, or is in the process of taking, a substantive course elective with that faculty member and that course relates to the field placement experience. Decisions about what courses and which placements qualify will be made by the Clinical Professor for Externships in consultation with the Director of Clinical Programs. The faculty member must agree to supervise the student under the guidelines of the Externship Program.


Any day student who fails to achieve a GPA of 2.67 after their first year is barred from enrolling in the Legal Externship Program for one year/two semesters. Any evening student who fails to achieve a GPA of 2.67 after their third semester is barred from enrolling in the Legal Externship Program for one year/two semesters. Thereafter, the student may enroll in the Legal Externship Program but the student’s participation is limited to 3 placement credits during their law school career.


Students interested in an externship should email Mary E. Sawicki

Student Guide

For a complete list of program requirements, see the Student Guide [PDF].

Registration After Placement

Civil and Judicial Externship Registrations—After the Field Placement is Secured

For questions regarding the registration process, please contact the Clinical Suite 150, or call 617-573-8049.

In order to register for academic credit for field placement experience, students must submit a completed "Placement Approval and Course Assignment" Form, a Conflicts Form, and a signed supervisor letter. Separate registration packets are required for students externing in private law firms. Once the registration forms are completed, the supervising Clinical Professor for externships must approve these forms. These forms will be given in turn to the Registrar. Students are advised to sign up for an "extra class" during the pre-registration process. Once the Externship Placement process is complete, students can register for the Externship and drop this extra class.


A SULS externship may be paid or unpaid. Paid externships are limited to a total of not more than 3 credits towards a student’s J.D. These credits must be taken in one semester. SULS is not responsible for monitoring or arranging compensation. All issues regarding compensation are solely between the placement and the student. All paid placements must comply with the mandates of the ABA Standards and all the requirements of the Externship Program.

For students already engaged in law related employment, current work and/or placements will not automatically qualify for this program. In order to qualify, a student and placement must (1) comply with the mandates of the ABA, (2) fulfill all Externship Program requirements, and (3) submit an educational plan providing that the student’s work will be law related and focused on developing lawyering skills. Acceptance of the student into the program is subject to the approval of the Clinical Professor for Externships in consultation with the Director of the Clinical Programs.

This policy will be effective as of July 1, 2019 and expires on June 30, 2021.

You may earn up to 12 credits in externship and clinical programs.

The world of legal education is changing so these definitions are in flux. However, originally, clinics were law offices where law school faculty members directly supervised legal work done by law students for live clients. In contrast, externships were situations in which non-faculty lawyers supervised law students in settings outside of the law school, and the work was overseen by faculty members who gave additional guidance and encouraged ethical, professional, and other reflections upon the experience. In reality now, some of our legal externships are in private practice with lawyers who are also adjunct professors at the law school in substantive areas. And, in some of our clinics, supervision is done by lawyers who work outside of the law school context and our inside faculty oversee the field supervisors and give additional guidance and encourage reflection. In general, clinics at our law school involve supervision of indigents in pro bono litigation. In our externship program, many of the same opportunities are available for a single semester (prosecutors, defenders, legal services), so if you get closed out of a clinic or want to do one for a single semester, you may want to consider an externship option.

Externships often lead to many things but students should focus on the present and on getting the most out of their field placement experience. Some field supervisors do not hire students upon graduation from law school but require lawyers with experience (e.g. U.S. Attorney's Office). Some field supervisors hire students for paid part-time jobs after they become acquainted with the student and his or her work. Others have hired students for full-time associate jobs upon graduation, but we have never kept tallies. Students usually receive: great experience; new knowledge and skills; a mentor in the field supervisor; opportunities to meet other lawyers in the same field; and great source of future information concerning professional opportunities.

Many factors influence this decision:

  1. student's academic load
  2. student's extracurricular and other activities
  3. whether the field supervisor has been previously affiliated with the Externship Program
  4. field supervisor needs.

Many students' schedules (especially night students) do not permit them to take more than 2-3 credits of Externship. However, most students enjoy their placements more if they have more time in the placement. We aspire for the student to be immersed in the legal environment and immersion requires time. Some placements have minimum hours requirements.