Law Program Externship

Law Program Externship

Course Description

Prerequisite: Completion of first year curriculum.

Law Office Externs are law students who are placed under the supervision of a practicing lawyer to obtain knowledge and experience in the practice of law. While working with their supervising attorney, students have the opportunity to gain valuable practical skills in a real world setting. The Law Office Extern program is intended to supplement and complement the knowledge and experience students receive in the Law Practice Clinic and in their other law school courses. In the extern program, students have the opportunity, under the close supervision of a licensed attorney, to confront actual legal problems and to analyze and explore the various roles that lawyers or legal institutions play. In their placements, students have the opportunity to interview and counsel clients, negotiate with lawyers and others, make presentations in court, draft legal documents, interview witnesses, and generally to perform and learn the various tasks and skills necessary to help a particular client resolve his or her legal problems.

The lawyer supervisor with whom a student is placed is expected, to the extent possible given the lawyer's and student's special circumstances, to provide students with training in lawyering skills, such as, client interviewing, counseling, negotiation, legal drafting, case evaluation and planning, case management, time and office management, argumentation, and applied legal research. Students are expected to master a significant body of substantive and procedural law relative to the legal problems that they confront. Finally, but not of least importance, students should be exposed to the professional responsibilities of a lawyer. Whenever ethical issues arise, the supervising lawyer is expected to explore these issues in depth with the student.

Law office extern placements are most successful when students are given as much professional responsibility for decision-making and interaction with the clients as possible and when the lawyer's supervision is active and close, but not so directive as to interfere with the student's ability to exercise personal professional responsibility. The supervising lawyer should be involved in every aspect of the student's work. The lawyer should be prepared to provide constructive critiques, encourage growth and development, and, if necessary, protect clients and the public from the mistakes that can be made by student lawyers. The lawyer's supervision comes before, during, and after the student works on a problem. For example, if a case is to be negotiated by the student, the student presents a negotiation plan to the supervising lawyer before the negotiation, which is then followed by a post-negotiation review and critique, by the lawyer.

Research and drafting of legal memoranda are important lawyer tasks and should be required, as these skills are important to the competent handling of legal matters. Legal research is, however, not the exclusive skill of legal problem solving. In clinical placements, it is important not to let legal research become the exclusive or predominant task assigned to the student. In the clinical placement, students should be introduced to a broad range of clinical skills.

Supervision Under Rules Governing Student Practice

Students enrolled in the Law Office Extern Program are governed by N.M.R. Civ. Pro. 1-094 and Rule 83.11 of the Local Rules for the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico. Students are required to conduct themselves at all times within the spirit and meaning of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Supervising lawyers must be sure that students understand and follow these rules.

Under these rules, students are granted the privilege to practice law while under the supervision of a properly licensed attorney designated by the Dean of the Law School and while the student is currently enrolled in the Law School clinical program. A lawyer other than the lawyer designated by the Law School as the student's supervisor is permitted to supervise the student only with the prior permission of the Law School.

N.M.R. Civ. Pro. 1-094 provides:

1-094. Clinical Education.

  1. Purpose. To permit a clinical program for the University of New Mexico School of Law.
  2. Procedure. Any law student admitted to the clinical program at the University of New Mexico School of Law shall be authorized under the control and direction of the Dean of the Law School to advise persons and to negotiate and to appear before the courts and administrative agencies of this State, in civil and criminal matters, under the active supervision of a member of the State Bar of New Mexico designated by the Dean of the Law School. Such supervision shall include assignment of all matters, review and examination of all documents, and signing of all pleadings prepared by the student. The supervising lawyer need not be present while a student is advising a client or negotiating, but shall be present during court appearances. Each student in the program may appear in a given court with the written approval of the judge presiding over the case and shall file in the court a copy of the order granting approval. The Law School shall report annually to the Supreme Court.
  3. Eligible Students. Any full-time student in good academic standing in the University of New Mexico School of Law who has received a passing grade in Law School courses, and have completed their first full year, but who has not graduated, shall be eligible to participate in a clinical program if he/she meets the academic and moral standards established by the Dean of the School of Law.
  4. Effective Date. This Rule shall be effective after May 15, 1970. [As amended, effective May 1, 1986; January 1, 1995; November 24, 1997].

D.N.M.LR-Cv 83.11 provides:

83.11 Clinical Law Student Practice. Any law student admitted to the clinical program at the University of New Mexico School of Law shall be authorized under the control and direction of the Dean of the Law School to advise persons and to negotiate and to appear before this Court in civil and criminal matters under the active supervision of a member of the bar of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, designated by the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law. Such supervision shall include assignment of all matters, review and examination of all documents and signing of all pleadings prepared by the student. Before a student appears in court, an order authorizing the student's appearance shall be of record. A sample order is located in NM Rules Annotated 4-821.
Effective Date. July 27, 1992.

Students and supervising lawyers participating in the program are responsible for insuring that the supervisory requirements of these Rules are followed. These Rules require the supervising attorney to be present during all court appearances and require the written permission of the judge presiding over the case. A form order to present to the judge presiding over the case, which grants permission to the student to appear, is available in the Clinic at the Law School.

The Law School requires law students enrolled in clinical courses to fully disclose to all persons with whom they deal that they are clinical law students and not licensed attorneys. No client should be represented by a law student without the prior consent of the client and of the supervising attorney.

Note: The District Attorney’s office has a policy regarding criminal background for law students interested in enrolling in a clinical program with the District Attorney’s office as follows:

  1. Students must not have incurred any criminal charges of any kind (except traffic tickets) in any jurisdiction as an adult.
  2. The District Attorney's Office may, on a case-by-case basis, allow very limited exceptions to the policy stated above for extremely minor offenses or highly unusual circumstances.
  3. The District Attorney reserves the right to exclude students from participation in the clinical law program for any other reasons deemed sufficient by the District Attorney and in the best interest of the Office.

The District Attorney’s Office will conduct a background check for a criminal record before issuing your identification.

Fieldwork

Law Office Externships are with practicing lawyers at government offices or non-profit agencies in the State of New Mexico. The lawyer may be working with a public agency, such as, the District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, or the Legal Aid Society.

All externships must be approved by the Externship Professor.

Second externships must involve a substantially different educational experience. For example, students are not permitted do two criminal law office externships. A student seeking a second externship must obtain academic advisement with the Externship Professor, and obtain written approval from the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Compensation

Students are not permitted to be paid for the hours they work in the Law Office Extern Program. Students receive three credit hours for successfully completing a law office externship. The credit hours earned in the externship count toward the hours required to graduate from Law School, but they do not count toward the Law School clinical course requirement of six credit hours earned in an "in house" clinical course.

Office Hours and Class

During the Fall or Spring semesters, students are required to work twelve (12) hours each week, for fourteen (14) weeks in their extern placement, for a total of 168 hours to earn 3 credits. Students are required to work eight (8) hours each week, for fourteen (14) weeks in their extern placement, for a total of 112 hours to earn 2 credits.

In the Summer semester, students work sixteen (16) hours each week, for ten (10) weeks in their extern placement, for a total of 160 hours to earn 3 credits. Students are required to work a total of 104 hours in their extern placement to earn 2 credits.

A set schedule of office hours must be arranged with a student's assigned lawyer during the first week of the semester. The hours are to be set during the lawyer's usual office working hours. A copy of the schedule is delivered to the Externship Coordinator. A student is not allowed to accumulate hours for the purpose of working fewer weeks. Exposure to the law office extern experience over the course of a full semester is an essential component of the overall educational program.

The Externship Professor will arrange class sessions to be held during the semester. Attendance of the classes is mandatory, and the hours spent in these classes count as part of the weekly office hour’s requirement.

Activity Reports and Confidentiality

Every two weeks, students must submit activity reports to the Externship Coordinator. These reports account for the manner in which a student is spending his or her time in the extern placement. The reports must be sufficiently detailed to present a clear description of what activities the student has been pursuing and what the student is learning. The reports must contain the date of the student activity, a description of the activity, and the total amount of time expended on each day's activities. It is essential to the Law Office Extern Program that the supervising lawyer and the clients feel free to communicate with the law student extern. Confidentiality of these communications must be assured. Students are strictly cautioned against breaching confidences and can be disciplined by the Law School for a breach of a confidential relationship. Discipline may include dropping the student from the extern course with a failing grade. In order to insure that confidences are not breached, the student extern and the student’s supervisor must sign all activity reports submitted to the externship coordinator.

Course Credit and Grading

Law students receive three Law School credit hours for their work in the Law Office Extern Program. The course is graded credit/non-credit; C-, D+, D, D-, or F. Whether credit is to be given is determined by the Externship Professor.

Final Evaluation by Supervising Attorney

At the end of the semester, the supervising lawyer must submit a final evaluation of the student's work to the Externship Professor. The final evaluation is done on a form supplied by the extern program coordinator. The extern program coordinator shortly before the completion of the semester will provide a copy of this form to the supervising attorney.

Conclusion

This description of the Law Office Extern Program is designed to anticipate common questions students and supervisors may have about the extern program. If questions or problems arise during the semester, do not hesitate to call the externship coordinator or the Externship Professor. The School of Law believes that placing the students in a law office environment is a significant and valuable part of the educational program. We welcome suggestions for improvement from anyone interested in the program.