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September 14, 2009 4:16 PM

Externships Attract Law Students as Summer Associate Programs Disappear

Posted by Claire Zillman

In this climate of law firm layoffs and budget cuts, law students can no longer depend on summer associate programs to land a job, so they’re turning to a new alternative: externships.

In this week's National Law Journal, Emily Heller writes that externships are gaining in popularity as a viable way for law students to obtain experience and make professional connections that could lead to full-time employment. These unpaid, for-credit work opportunities place students under the direction of faculty or on-site attorneys at organizations other than law firms, such as government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or corporations.

The NLJ reports that in prerecession times, externships were considered valuable, but not essential. But now, as summer associate opportunities dry up, law schools are encouraging students to seek out various options for gaining real legal experience, so demand for externships has risen. At UCLA School of Law, for example, 41 students completed externships in 2007. This year, that number jumped to 74, according to the NLJ.

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