Law Program Externship
Law Program Externship
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.
A. Purpose. To permit a clinical program for the University of New Mexico School of Law.
B. 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.
C. 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 of twenty nine (29) or more semester hours (or their equivalent), 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.
D. 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:
a. Students must not have incurred any criminal charges of any kind (except traffic tickets) in any jurisdiction as an adult.
b. 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.
c. 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.
Malpractice Insurance, Clinical Practice Cards & Externship Completion Date
All students enrolled in the Law Office Extern Program are required to purchase malpractice insurance through the Clinical Law Program. The cost of the malpractice insurance is negotiated annually and students will be notified as soon as it is determined. Supervising lawyers in the extern program are not covered by the insurance. If supervising lawyers have questions about the effect of having a clinical student in their office, they should check with their insurance carrier.
Only qualified students currently enrolled in the Clinical Law Program at the University of New Mexico School of Law are permitted to practice law under Rule 1-094 or D.N.M.LR-Cv 83.11. To insure that the Law School can make an accurate accounting of enrolled students to the New Mexico Supreme Court, students enrolled must sign for a student practice card, which is issued at the beginning of each semester. The practice card may be presented to anyone who asks for practice authorization. Each practice card contains an expiration date and students are not permitted to practice beyond that date. If a student has not completed his or her work in an extern placement by the expiration date, the Director of the Clinical Law Program will determine if arrangements for an incomplete or an extension of time are permissible.
Placements are made with practicing lawyers in the State of New Mexico. The lawyer may be in private practice or working with a public agency, such as, the District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, or the Legal Aid Society.
All placements are made by the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and lawyers are permitted to request placements, but no placement is final until approved by the Law School. Placements are made to promote the student's overall educational program and goals. No student may be placed under the supervision of a relative.
A student is not permitted to repeat a law office externship without the written consent of the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. A student may petition the Associate Dean for permission to repeat a law office externship based on a showing of substantial educational value.
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.
If funding is available, students may be compensated for extraordinary travel or living expenses while traveling for their extern placement. If a student works extra hours over and above those required for extern credit, and the law student has arranged in advance to be paid for these hours, pay is permitted. Pay in this circumstance must be the prior written approval of the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. The student must keep carefully written records of all time worked for pay and for Law School credit to substantiate the fact that pay is not being accepted for time allotted to the clinical extern requirement.
Clinical Enrollment and Law School Registration
Students must enroll for the Law Office Extern Program during the sign up period designated by the Director of the Clinical Law Program. Placements with a specific lawyer will be finalized during the first two weeks of the semester. The Law Clinic regularly receives inquiries regarding possible placements with law firms, government agencies, and the courts. Students desiring assistance in securing a placement or discussing a particular placement should speak to the Externship Coordinator or the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs.
The enrollment for the Law Office Extern Program does not constitute registration for the course with the University of New Mexico Registrar's Office. Registration and tuition payments are handled on main campus in the same manner as for all Law School courses. Questions regarding registration and tuition should be directed to the Law School Registrar.
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 lawyer and to the Director of the Clinical Law Program.
The actual hours worked by the student should generally conform to the scheduled office hours. With the permission of the supervising lawyer, some flexibility is allowed to accommodate special circumstances, such as, illness or opportunity to engage in a particularly exciting educational experience outside of the regularly scheduled hours. 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.
During the fall and spring semester, the beginning and the end of the office hour’s period will run a total length of fourteen weeks. Students are required to maintain the assigned office hours beginning in the second week of the semester. Office hours are to be kept until the last day of classes at the Law School.
During the summer semester, the beginning and the end of the office hour’s period will run a total length of ten weeks. Students are required to maintain the assigned office hours beginning the first week of the semester. Office hours are to be kept until the last day of classes at the Law School.
If a student fails to keep office hours as required, the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs must be informed immediately by the supervising lawyer and the student. Any change in office hours or in completion of the externship program should be coordinated with the supervising attorney and the Externship Coordinator.
The Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs will arrange class sessions to be held during the semester. Please check the Clinic web calendar for days, times and room assignment. Attendance of the classes is mandatory, and the hours spent in these classes count as part of the weekly office hour’s requirement.
Withdrawing From the Externship Program
Students are not permitted to withdraw from the Law Office Extern Program after the third week of the semester without the permission of the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. This requirement is to prevent possible harm to clients' cases or to the working environment of a lawyer's office. Students desiring to withdraw from this course should first speak to their supervising attorney. Please confirm your intention to withdraw in writing with your supervising attorney and provide a copy to the externship coordinator.
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.
Final Paper and Placement Evaluations
The law office extern experience is enhanced by the student's self-reflection on his or her learning. To encourage self-reflection and to provide focus to the educational experience, students in the Law Office Extern Program are required to submit a paper to the Externship Coordinator, copied to their law office extern supervisor, which describes in detail one or more aspects of their learning experience. The paper should focus, in depth, on insights into lawyering skills or professional responsibility and the student's own skill or knowledge development in the context of his or her learning experience.
The paper is due no later than one week after the last day of required office hours. There is no specific length limitation, but it is expected that most papers will range from seven to ten pages.
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 Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, based on the activity reports, the final paper, and a final evaluation from the supervising lawyer. A failure of the student to submit timely activity reports or the final paper will result in the reduction of the grade or a denial of credit.
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 Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. 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.
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 Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs.
If a student falls significantly behind in meeting the requirements of the course, it is important that the student and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs be informed immediately. This helps to prevent misunderstandings, which may arise after the semester is concluded.
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.