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For Students

More than 70-percent of CWSL students participate in the Clinical Externship Program. As part of the program, third-year students gain real-world legal experience in exchange for academic credit at various organizations, agencies, law offices, government offices, and corporations in San Diego and around the world.

Program Goals

  • Develop the students' abilities to learn from experience and become thoughtful problem solvers.
  • Promote students' sensitivity to and awareness of professional responsibility and ethical issues.
  • Give students insights into how the legal system workss
  • Train students in lawyering skills and critical thinking.
  • Instill values of professionalism.
  • Develop students' interpersonal skills.

Externships vs. Clerkship

Externship and clerking experiences are both valuable aspects of legal education. The decision to obtain an externship or a clerkship is up to the student, depending on their goals. The chart below compares the law clerk experience to the externship experience:

Relationship with attorney Employer/employee Mentor/student
Purpose Produce Learn
Tasks and work Focus on needs of employer Focus on learning goals of extern
Expectations Efficiency and speed Understanding, learning, and reflecting
Exposure Work assigned Opportunity to engage in a variety of lawyering activities including observation
Feedback Not primary focus Work continuously reviewed and revised
Compensation Money and experience Supervised experience and academic credit

Academic Credit and Externship Seminar

As an extern, you must enroll in the one-unit Externship Seminar. Along with the seminar, students spend 13 weeks in their externships. Each extern can spend 20 to 40 hours per work at their externship, depending on the number of units they are earning. Students receive academic credit (pass/fail) for their work and can earn between five to 10 credits for their externships. Students will receive a letter grade for the Externship Seminar. Each unit equals four hours of externship work per week. 

The chart below lists the number of hours students must work at their externships depending upon the number of units they are receiving. While students can take other courses while externing, they cannot exceed 17 units of credit. 

5 20 260
6 24 312
7 28 364
8 32 416
9 36 468
10 40 520

NOTE: The table does NOT count the 1-unit classroom component. 

Externship Seminar

The Externship Seminar is held weekly. The seminar gives students the space to share experiences, learn about different areas of law and creates a forum to discuss issues of concern for new lawyers. Students find these seminars to be an important source of information, education, and support for making the transition from student to a new lawyer.

Students completing externships outside San Diego take part in the weekly seminar on an online learning platform determined by their instructor.



  1. Students must be in their last or next-to-last trimester of law school at the time the externship begins.
  2. Students must completed at least 50 hours of legal experience (paid, pro bono, or volunteer) since entering law school.
  3. The Clinical Externship Program does not allow students to be compensated for their work.
  4. Supervising attorneys are prohibited from billing clients for the time and work performed by externship students.
  5. Students may participate in the Program for only one trimester. Externships for credit cannot be repeated.
  6. Students must work in person on-site as required by the Program unless the program director has granted an exception.
  7. Students earning academic credit through the Program will be the only extern supervised by an attorney unless the program director has granted the attorney an exception.
  8. Students may not take more than 17 units of credit while externing.
  9. Students must successfully complete Professional Responsibility.
  10. Students cannot be on or in danger of going on academic probation (Academic Policy 7.33). Students cannot have a violation of the law school's Code of Student Professional Conduct (Honor Code).
  11. Some externships have specific class rankings, prerequisite courses, or other requirements, as detailed in the externship office.
  12. Students who are interested in externing at an office where they are working or have been employed must have their supervising attorney complete a Teaching/Learning Agreement explaining how the externship experience will differ from the work the student has already done.
  13. Students ordinarily may not extern with relatives, friends, or friends of relatives.
  14. Students planning to extern outside of San Diego must arrange to attend the CWSL's Bar Review Course the trimester before or after their externship. Contact Professor Sassi at JavaScript Required for details.

Externship Planning

To graduate CWSL students must complete 90 units. Eleven of those units must be Experiential (EXP) units. All units, including the seminar, earned through the Clinical Externship Program are considered EXP units.


  1. After completing first-year courses, meet with a Career and Professional Development Office advisor to discuss career planning.
  2. Meet with faculty point of contact and academic advisor to plan a schedule for the second and third years.
  3. Visit the Clinical Externship Office to discuss externship opportunities.
  4. Acquire 50 hours of legal experience during law school.

Full-time externships

Full-time externships are available but do require additional course planning. Interested students need to look at CWSL Academic Policies and plan to take all bar and required courses before the externship. Students considering full-time externships should consider the following options three trimesters before their anticipated externship:

  1. Take two trimesters of 16 units and one trimester of 17 units.
  2. Reduce the need for high course loads by taking two or three summer classes or a summer abroad program.
  3. Take ONE 2- or 3-unit course while externing. (only consider courses taught in the late afternoon or early evening or online)