Independent Externships

Ann Juergens

Co-Director of Clinic Program

Peter B. Knapp

Co-Director of Clinic Program

Derik Fettig

Externship Director

Jean Backes

Administrative Coordinator, Clinics and Externships
Rm. 254

Independent Externship (course #4355) is a for-credit course in which the student takes responsibility for much of his or her own learning by working in field placement sites under the guidance of a field supervisor and faculty supervisor. Placement can be with for-profit or nonprofit entities, such as law firms, corporations, county and state offices, and nonprofit agencies. Opportunities with individual faculty members, such as working on their pro bono cases, may also meet the requirements of the Independent Externship Program.  Students may earn up to four credits for this course during their law school career.

Independent Judicial Externship (course #4900) is a for-credit course in which the student finds his or her own judicial placement. A student enrolled in an independent judicial externship is responsible for his or her own learning by working under the guidance of the judge and faculty supervisor. Students may earn up to four credits for this course during their law school career.

The following criteria and procedures apply to both
Independent Externships and Independent Judicial Externships.

Externship Program Goals

The program goals are to provide opportunities for the student in the following areas:

  • Pursue individual learning goals;
  • Apply knowledge and skills gained from academic studies in class to the rigors of practice;
  • Learn to be a reflective professional– articulate observations, comprehend, and integrate new knowledge for future actions;
  • Develop professional responsibility skills;
  • Gain skills and knowledge necessary to work with individuals with life experiences different than the student’s own life experiences;
  • Assist in defining career goals and create professional networks.

Student’s Responsibilities

  • Carefully read all information about the Independent Externship on this website and attached forms.
  • Explore and find placement opportunities (see Initiating and Finding Field Placement below).
  • Meet with externship director for verbal approval.
  • Ask a faculty member to serve as faculty supervisor.
  • Prepare written Education Agreement (see Elements of an Independent Externship Agreement below), discuss it with field supervisor, and review the final draft with the externship director before obtaining faculty supervisor’s signature.  Only typed Agreements will be accepted.
  • Watch the externship video and follow steps to confirm (see Externship Orientation below).
  • Complete and provide the Conflict of Interest Inventory to the field supervisor.
  • Understand that as a law student extern, the student has a unique position at the field placement site:
    • The externship is for the student’s benefit to gain legal educational experience and training.
    • The student is receiving law school credits for the externship and is responsible for following through on the academic and administrative requirements set by the student’s law school in order to receive credits for the externship.
    • The student is not an employee of the placement site.  The student cannot be paid, is not eligible for any benefits, and is not necessarily entitled to a job with the placement site at the end of the student’s externship.


  • Is in academic good standing (2.0 GPA or higher).
  • Earned a minimum of 22 credits (WRAP, Contracts, Civil Procedure, Torts).
  • Completed or concurrently taking Professional Responsibility. Except for externships where the student will be providing direct client representation, this requirement should not prohibit the student from exploring externship opportunities. Please talk to the externship director if you have any questions.

Credit Hours & Grading

  • Credits are based on the hours of externship activities:
  • 1 credit = 50 hours
  • 2 credits = 100 hours
  • 3 credits = 145 hours
  • 4 credits = 190 hours
  • Externship credits are not floating credits. Work must be completed within the semester in which the student is enrolled.
  • Grade: pass/fail.
  • If the faculty supervisor also provides field supervision, a letter grade may be an option.
  • The general rule is that students are limited to 4 independent externship credits.  In exceptional cases, a waiver of this rule may be granted.  A student may request a review of his/her unique situation by scheduling a meeting with the externship director.

Initiating and Finding Field Placement

  • Each student interested in an externship is encouraged to reflect on his or her own learning goals and be creative in seeking a placement that will help him or her meet those goals.
  • Students are responsible for finding their own placements.  Prior to registration, a number of independent externships that are set up by the externship director will be posted on Symplicity.
  • Mitchell has resources to assist students in finding suitable placements—Office of Career and Professional Development, Symplicity postings, Minnesota Justice Foundation, Alumni Relations, Mitchell Mentors, professors, and the externship director.

Obtaining Approval for Independent Externship

Verbal Approval

  • Discuss externship proposal with the externship director.
  • Proposals that duplicate existing clinic programs will not be approved.
  • Credit is not given for prior legal experiences.
  • Credit is not available for work for which the student is paid.

Written Independent Externship Education Agreement & Registration

  • Once verbally approved, a written Independent Externship Agreement (see Elements of an Independent Externship Agreement below) must be submitted to the externship director. Credit is only given for work completed after the agreement is approved.
  • Student needs to sign the Agreement and obtain signatures of the field supervisor, faculty supervisor, and externship director.
  • Submit agreement to: Jean Backes, administrative coordinator for clinics and externships to complete the registration process.  Your Education Agreement serves as your registration form.  Online registration is not available for independent externships.


  • The student will be required to submit online timesheets.
  • At the beginning of each semester, registered students will be contacted by Jean Backes, who will set up the student on the timekeeping system.
  • Grade will be submitted to the registrar at the end of the semester after the student has logged in the required credit hours.

Elements of an Independent Externship Agreement

  • The student is responsible for writing his or her own agreement by using the Education Agreement form.  See Downloads and Links.
  • The agreement consists of four parts: Learning Goals, Field Activities, Plan for Field Supervision, and Plan for Faculty Involvement.

Learning Goals

  • Consists of a description of the skills and knowledge the student plans to acquire through the externship.
  • Students are encouraged to ask themselves, at the end of the externships, what is it that they hoped to have gained?
  • Examples of areas of focus to define learning goals:  problem solving skills, legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, factual investigation, communication, counseling, negotiation, litigation and alternative dispute resolution procedures, organization and management of legal work, and recognizing and resolving ethical dilemmas.

Field Activities

  • Consists of a detailed description of the field activities in which the student will participate and a statement of how the activities relate to the learning goals.
  • The student and field supervisor should review the student’s learning goals to develop activities to help the student meet those goals.
  • The field activities should provide the student the opportunities to:
    • Learn the values and responsibilities of the legal profession
    • Develop the student’s ability to assess his or her performance and level of competence
    • Expose the student to a variety of activities, as opposed to overemphasis on research and writing
    • Involve the student as a direct participant, not merely as an observer

Plan for Field Supervision

  • The student needs to have a field supervisor with a J.D. identified at the externship placement site.
  • The agreement should detail the manner in which the learning goals are to be advanced through the student’s interaction with the field supervisor.
  • There should be scheduled, periodic meetings between the student and field supervisor to discuss the work assigned and review the student’s educational goals.  These details need to be included in the Education Agreement under Plan for Field Supervision.
  • The supervisor will be asked to confirm and comment on the student’s work at the end of the externship.

Plan for Faculty Involvement

  • A full-time faculty member must provide educational supervision.
  • A student may want to ask a faculty member who teaches courses related to the externship topic to serve as the faculty supervisor.
  • In situations where the student is working on a faculty member’s pro bono case, the faculty member will serve as the field supervisor as well as the faculty supervisor.
  • The agreement should detail how the learning goals will be achieved through faculty involvement, including a description of the means the faculty member will use to evaluate the student’s achievement of the learning goals; for example, a written report from the field supervisor, a paper, or a journal.  Students need to ask the faculty supervisor how many meetings should be set up and whether there are written assignments, such as journals, field notebooks or reflection papers or other research papers.  The details need to be provided in the Education Agreement under Plan for Faculty Supervision.

The faculty supervisor is responsible for:

  • Meeting periodically with the student during the externship
  • Assisting the student in guided reflection based on the student’s experiences
  • Evaluating whether the student achieved his or her learning goals

Preparing Your Application Materials & Getting Ready For Interviews

  • Students are advised to set up a meeting with a counselor in the Career & Professional Development Office for resume & cover letter reviews and interview preparation.

Externship Orientation

Students registering for Independent Externships and Independent Judicial Externships are required to watch the externship orientation video (see link below).  Students do not need to watch the video if this was completed and confirmed for a previous externship.  The video covers:  Professional Responsibility: Confidentiality & Ethics in Externship (Prof.  Sarah Deer); Getting the Most Out of Your Experience:  Being a Good Supervisee & a Professional (Melissa Wright, Eric Johnson, St. Croix County District Attorney & Jean Backes);  Safety & Setting Boundaries Between Students and Field Supervisors (Kathy Connolly & Mary Gale).

Concluding Your Externship

The externship video provides tips on how to wrap up your externship at your placement site. Students should also know that:

  • They need to update their online timesheets and ensure that they have completed and logged in the hours required for their registered credits.
  • After the student has logged in the requisite hours, Jean Backes will inform the student’s faculty supervisor to request a pass/fail grade.
  • Students are responsible for checking in with their faculty supervisors to ensure their final journals or any writing components of the Education Agreement are completed.
  • Mitchell’s Externship Director will email the field supervisor to request a written evaluation which will be forwarded to the student and faculty supervisor upon receipt.
  • MJF Hours:  Students who have completed more hours than what is required for their registered credits should contact Mitchell’s MJF staff attorney if the externship was with a nonprofit or government.  Inform the MJF staff attorney your name, the name of your field placement and number of MJF hours to report.