Risks and Rewards of Externships: Exploring Goals and Methods
26 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2017
Date Written: November 14, 2017
This article explores the full range of goals one might have for an extern program and the methods one should use to achieve those goals. Despite regulatory focus on practice readiness and “skills” development, externships need not and sometimes should not have “skills” as the primary goal. If skills are to be a focus, then students must learn the theory and methods behind the skills to be used in the placement either through targeted pre-requisites, a skills-focused classroom component, or selection of placement supervisors with the ability to impart both the relevant theory and methods. Commentators have identified both skills and professionalism as lacking in legal education, and externships have special advantages for development of professional identity and for institutional critique--the micro and the macro aspects of professionalism. Students are in the “real world,” able to try out a professional identity and to study the ways in which their supervisors enact the lawyering role. They are encountering actual legal institutions that function well or not-so-well, which should lead to critical inquiry into these institutions. The emotional and analytical distance between the teacher at the law school and the day-to-day supervisor should facilitate the exploration of both professional identity and institutional critique. Exploring these aspects of professionalism are rich and important goals, we argue, that extern programs ought to seek.
Keywords: clinical, pedagogy, extern, skills, professionalism
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