Melissa Wright, externship director

Externship program gives Mitchell students a leg up and a foot in the door

If it’s in Minnesota and has a legal department, there’s a good chance it also has a Mitchell student learning the ins and outs of the organization. Thanks to Mitchell’s beefed up externship program, students are getting more opportunities than ever to gain valuable practical experience in many legal settings, including government, nonprofits, and corporations.

Melissa Wright, externship director

Melissa Wright, externship director

In the 2012-13 academic year, Mitchell’s externship placements increased by 20 percent over the previous year, and the number of students participating, more than 300, was up 13 percent. The increase can be directly related to the addition of Mitchell’s first externship director, Melissa Wright ’93. The college created the position to give Mitchell students and legal offices the resources they need to establish strong relationships and ensure positive experience for both sides.

“My first focus was finding placements where externship opportunities hadn’t been tapped into by our school or generally known to our students,” Wright says. “Many of those were in government agencies, which allow students to work on problems that require multi-disciplinary approach to legal and other issues and introduce them to careers they might not otherwise have considered.”

This year those externship placements include, to name just a few, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Fair Housing Unit of the Housing and Urban Development in the federal government; the Department of Transportation, Department of Human Services, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in state government; and Hennepin County, Ramsey County and the city of St. Paul in local government.

“For me, it’s all about preparing our students to be ready once they graduate and teaching them to be proactive in their own legal education,” says Wright. “I help align students’ career goals with externships that can help them develop the skills they’ll need to be successful. I try to make sure the placement site is appropriate for learning and that students have focused, individual learning goals that they can accomplish during their externship.”

Mitchell has twelve externship courses and has plans to add more for this spring semester. In addition to externship courses, students can earn up to four independent externship credits during their law school career. One credit requires 50 hours of activities; four credits require 190 hours. For more information, contact Melissa Wright at

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Externship Courses at Mitchell

Independent Externships and Independent Judicial Externships