Externship application season is quickly approaching, and you may be wondering whether an externship is right for you. Externships might seem scary because they take up your entire semester and/or may be located outside of Charlottesville.
This past semester I had the pleasure of completing a full-time, individualized externship at Bay Area Legal Aid (BayLegal) in Richmond, CA. You have to decide what is best for you but because of my experience, I especially recommend public service students to complete an externship.
I believe that externships can be vital to public service students for multiple reasons. Most importantly, during an externship you will cultivate and hone substantive skills over an extended period of time. A summer internship provides similar training experiences. However, the extra time you have during an externship coupled with the fact that there may be fewer students in the office than during the summer, will allow you to take on greater ownership of your caseload.
I found that my externship was particularly helpful because as a third-year law student in the midst of the job search, I was simultaneously externing and applying for post-graduate fellowships at BayLegal. These post-grad fellowships require a project proposal and a host organization. Completing an externship at the future location of my intended fellowship project was instrumental to the success of the development and approval of that project in multiple ways.
First of all, in developing the proposal, it was incredibly helpful to have access to my supervising attorney and managing attorney on a daily basis for review. Moreover, because the office was operating on the assumption that I would be returning, my externship served as intentional and valuable training time. I was not only able to deepen my knowledge of the substantive unlawful detainer and fair housing law, but also my supervisor pointedly gave me work that was similar to what I would be doing post-graduation. Finally, the time I spent in the geographical area I wanted to work in after graduation allowed me to cultivate the relationships necessary for my project to succeed and immerse myself in the community I will be serving. Because of my time at BayLegal during this externship, post-graduation I will be able to hit the ground running and start securing positive outcomes for my clients immediately.
If you do plan on completing an externship, here are some points of importance:
- Full-time individualized externships are only 13 credits. You should plan ahead so you aren’t taken by surprise if you need to take a heavier course-load when you return.
- Plan your semester out carefully. In addition to working a full-time job, you’ll also have schoolwork to complete. If you’re organized and set clear deadlines this shouldn’t be a problem.
- Your externship doesn’t have to be full-time or individualized. Although I’ve written from the perspective of someone who has completed a full-time individualized externship, there are other choices. The externship program includes part-time options and a UVA Law in DC option. If you want something with less time commitment or something with more guidance, you can find the right fit for you.
Ultimately, the experience you will gain from an externship is particular to working and cannot be replicated in a classroom. This alone makes completing an externship more than worth it.
See more about externships at UVA Law here!
Maya Iyyani is a third-year law student from Pembroke Pines, FL. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2015 (Go Gators). For her 1L summer, she served as a law clerk at Bay Area Legal Aid in the Housing Unit, working on eviction defense and subsidy preservation. This past summer she worked at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant predominantly on Affirmative Asylum cases. This past semester, she returned to Bay Area Legal Aid to complete a full-time externship. Maya is the 2018 recipient of the Powell Fellowship which is granted annually to a third-year student (or a recent graduate completing a judicial internship) who is pursuing a career in providing legal services to underserved communities under the sponsorship of a public interest organization.