Appalachia Externship


Appalachia Externship (LAW 75800)

Each fall break and spring break, the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky (AppalReD) hosts six Notre Dame law students who are introduced to the Appalachian region and who provide pro bono legal services to area residents. The program is funded by the Faegre Baker Daniels Foundation. AppalReD is the umbrella legal services organization for the rugged coal mining region in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. Students work out of the AppalReD headquarters in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, but also travel to AppalReD offices in other counties to meet with clients, assist with legal research, and learn about the culture, poverty, and legal issues of this unique region. Students also occasionally work with a pro bono attorney closely associated with AppalReD who addresses environmental problems caused by coal mining operations.

Appalachia Fall 2012 Participants
“This group has been absolutely fabulous! They have done awesome work here,” said Kristie Stephens, Chief Legal Secretary of AppalReD Legal Aid regarding Notre Dame Law School’s Fall 2012 students.

Past externship participants have conducted client meetings to prepare simple pleadings in family law matters, helped victims of a flood caused by the collapse of a coal mine impoundment respond to interrogatories, developed forms and materials to assist pro se litigants, and performed legal research projects for AppalReD attorneys, among other projects. Students have also observed court proceedings, met with lawyers and judges, watched a historical documentary at a cultural center, met with the founder of AppalReD, toured “mountaintop removal” coal mining sites, and have otherwise been introduced to many facets of the Appalachian region through the extraordinary hospitality of the AppalReD staff and the local bench and bar.

Students are prepared for the externship experience through readings, films, and several classroom sessions conducted by Professor Jones at the law school. During the externship, students keep a daily diary of their experiences. Students then attend a debriefing session and prepare a reflection paper upon their return.

The Appalachia Externship is closely associated with the Appalachia Seminar of the Center for Social Concerns, through which 200 undergraduate students spend their fall or spring breaks in Appalachia. The Appalachia Seminar provides logistical assistance and educational resources for the externship.

The costs of the externship are borne by the law school, which provides a rental van, gas, and food during the week. AppalReD provides lodging for students, typically in a house owned by AppalReD that is next door to its offices.

Students generally depart on Sunday morning of the first weekend of break and arrive in Prestonsburg on Sunday afternoon. They return to South Bend the following Friday evening.

Students register for the Appalachia Externship like any other course. There is no application or other special procedure. The Appalachia Externship does not meet the upper level experiential course requirement for the classes of 2017 and 2018, and does not count toward the six-hour experiential course requirement for the class of 2019 and beyond.