General Externship Program Information

The Externship Program is designed to allow a student to receive academic credit for gaining legal experience beyond that available in the classroom setting, by working under the supervision of a licensed attorney in a governmental or non-profit setting. The amount of credit awarded for the field placement component of a student’s externship is based on the number of hours that the student works during the semester in the externship placement, with 1 credit awarded for every 50 hours of work, and a minimum of two credits per placement (totaling about one day per week). Travel time to and from the externship placement does not count towards the 50 hour per credit requirement. Students must work in the externship placement over the course of the entire semester unless they obtain special permission from the Externship Director.   

In addition to the hours spent working in the externship placement, first-time externs are required to take a 1-credit companion class on topics such as career planning, professionalism, and learning from supervision. Credit for work in the externship placement will be awarded on a Credit/No Credit basis, while the companion class is graded in accordance with a High Pass / Pass / Low Pass / Fail grading policy.

Eleni Bakst '17The Special Rapporteurs are required under their mandate to report to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council on an annual basis. Over the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to draft the statement for one of these Special Rapporteurs to the General Assembly. Not only did this assignment offer me the chance to practice a new form of writing and research an area I find very interesting, but it will also be amazing to hear the words I wrote spoken before the General Assembly in New York.
— Eleni Bakst '17, reflecting on her externship in Geneva, Switzerland at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Special Procedures Branch

A student participating in an externship must have completed or be currently enrolled in a course designated as satisfying the Ethics and Professionalism Requirement for graduation. This requirement may be waived, with permission, in order to enroll in an externship. A student who has earned 6 credits in externships and wishes to enroll in additional externship credits must obtain the prior approval of the faculty Curriculum Committee.

A student participating in an externship may not earn a salary or receive other compensation for the work performed in the placement, except for reimbursement for travel and other work-related expenses required by the placement entity.

The following types of externships are available: Individual Externships, Advanced Individual Externships, Integrated Externships, and Faculty-Mentored Externships.

Interested in an externship?

  • Book an appointment with Prof. Anne Gordon, Director of Externships.
  • DEADLINE: Externships must be confirmed by the last day of drop/add, and first-time externs must attend the first day of the Externship Seminar.  For-profit externships, and any placement requiring faculty approval, will not be considered after the first day of classes.

Individual Externships

2 to 4 credits, with option for 1 to 2 credit research paper

An Individual Externship is a part-time field placement taken in conjunction with regularly scheduled Duke Law classes.  These externships range from 2 to 4 credits, in addition to a required one-credit Externship Seminar to be taken during a students’ first externship.  Externs must complete 50 hours of fieldwork per credit enrolled, and those hours must be completed between the semester's first day of classes and the last day of exams, according to a schedule mutually agreed between the student and the host organization.To register for Individual Externship credit, fill out the Externship Registration Form obtain required signatures, and submit to the Registrar's Office PRIOR TO THE LAST DAY OF REGISTRATION for the semester. Only 2L and 3L students may enroll in an externship, and a student may not exceed 6 total credits of externship during law school. With the prior approval of the Externship Director and a faculty supervisor, the student may earn up to an additional 2 credits beyond those awarded for work in the externship placement by completing a substantial research paper that is related to the substance of the externship experience.

View individual externship opportunities

Advanced Individual Externships

2 to 4 credits

A student who has completed an Individual Externship may, in a subsequent semester, enroll in an Advanced Externship, which is an Individual Externship without the required Externship Seminar.  Students are discouraged from enrolling in the same externship placement for an additional semester, and externship credit will be permitted in this circumstance only with special permission from the Curriculum Committee (do not leave this until the last minute!) In conformance with ABA standards, such externships will entail opportunities for ongoing, contemporaneous reflection.

Advanced Externship students may, but are not required to, choose a faculty supervisor other than Professor Gordon. That supervisor will read the students’ reflection papers, have beginning-, middle-, and end-of-term meetings with the student, and advise Professor Gordon about whether to award the (ungraded) credits for the placement.

Integrated Externships

Faculty-taught course that integrates a shared-theme externship experience with complementing seminar.

Integrated Externships are available where multiple students’ externships share a subject matter or placement site. Arranging an Integrated Externship (other than Duke in D.C.) requires advance planning and coordination with faculty members; students interested in such externships should contact the Externship Director as soon as possible. The Duke in D.C. program entails a full-time placement and a four-credit Federal Policymaking seminar, for a total of 13 credits.

View Duke in D.C. externship opportunities

Faculty-Mentored Externships

Full-semester externships for up to 14 credits

Faculty-Mentored Externships allow students to pursue placements away from the Triangle area.  Students pursue a full-time field placement taken in conjunction with a research paper, tutorial, or other faculty-guided academic requirement.  Students earn up to 9 credits for the placement and up to 5 credits for the faculty-mentored components.  In no event may a student receive more than 14 credits for a Faculty-Mentored Externship.  Faculty-mentored externships, including externships abroad, require Curriculum Committee approval.

View faculty-mentored externship opportunities

Externship and Duke in D.C. Information Session

Monday, October 15, 2018 • 12:30 PM • Law School 3000


Duke in D.C.

Duke in D.C. gives students who are interested in public policy, public service, and careers in the public sector an opportunity to engage in hands-on law practice through a full-time externship experience in Washington, D.C. during the Fall of their 3L year. The program takes advantage of Duke Law's proximity to Washington and the extraordinary connections and expertise of Law School faculty that testify on Capitol Hill, advise policymakers, and research and write about federal policy and regulation.

Learn more about Duke in D.C.