Externships (field placements)

Notre Dame Law Chicago Offices

Get out of the classroom and into a real-world legal environment, from public interest work in Chicago and Washington, D.C., to corporate and judicial work in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan — and so much more. Students can earn academic credit while working with prosecutors, public defenders, wrongful conviction efforts in Indiana and Chicago, judges, legislators, city attorneys, intercollegiate athletics administration, or with legal aid in poverty-stricken Appalachia, all the while honing lawyering skills that take what students learn in the classroom into actual legal practice.

More information for current students

Students can explore a wide range of legal work that may not otherwise be available through clinics or other courses, including in nearly any legal non-profit organization, governmental law office (local, state or federal), state or federal court, or corporate counsel office of the student’s choosing. Externship students participate in faculty-led seminars and other activities to help them reflect on their field experiences.

Notre Dame offers a wide variety of externship courses that allow students to work in the field for as little as a half day per week or as much as four days per week. The opportunities are endless. Externship opportunities include, but are not limited to:

  • ND Law in Chicago - This program offers spring semester externships in a variety of legal organizations in one of the nation’s largest and most diverse legal markets, just 90 miles from the law school’s South Bend campus. Students work four days per week in non-profit legal organizations, governmental law offices, judicial chambers, or in-house corporate counsel offices under the careful supervision and mentoring of a practicing attorney. The program operates out of a beautiful classroom space at 224 S. Michigan Avenue, next door to Chicago’s Symphony Hall.
  • ND Law in D.C. - This program offers semester-long externships in the nation’s capital. Students work four days per week in federal government-related positions, including federal agencies, executive branch offices, and congressional offices and committees. It is a Spring-semester only program.
  • Seventh Circuit Practice Externship - This externship allows third-year students to represent clients before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Students are appointed by the court to represent prisoners in direct appeals and habeas corpus proceedings.  Students write briefs and conduct oral arguments before the Seventh Circuit under the supervision of a leading appellate practitioner.
  • Public Defender Externship - The Public Defender Externship is the Law School’s longest-running externship program. Students assist actual public defenders in representing indigent clients at the St. Joseph County Courthouse—Trial and Misdemeanor Division and at the Juvenile Justice Center. Students spend one morning or afternoon per week representing clients in many capacities, including negotiating plea bargains with prosecutors; preparing and conducting bench trials; interviewing and subpoenaing witnesses; writing and filing discovery motions; and other activities within the administration of justice. Besides the courtroom experience, students attend class sessions that feature prosecutors, police officers, public defenders, judges, and probation officers lecturing on their duties as officers of the court.
  • Wrongful Conviction Externship - The Wrongful Conviction Externship provides students real-world lawyering experience representing and advising northern Indiana clients believed to have been wrongfully convicted of serious crimes. These lawyering tasks are conducted under the supervision of a staff attorney with the Exoneration Project in Chicago. In the classroom component, students examine the principal causes of wrongful convictions, the application of those causes to the cases assigned to the students, proposed solutions to prevent wrongful convictions in the future, and related ethical issues. 
  • National Immigrant Justice Center Externship - In this program, NDLS students have the opportunity to practice immigration law under the supervision of an experienced National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) immigration attorney by providing immigration legal services to low-income immigrants in Indiana. Students represent clients in asylum proceedings and other cases in Immigration Court. 
  • Corporate Counsel Externship - The Corporate Counsel Externship explores the practice of law from the perspective of in-house counsel. Students obtain practical knowledge of the day-to-day reality of working in the legal department of a corporation; gather information, through readings, lectures, and in-class exercises, about how corporate counsel practice differs from law firm practice; and gain insight on the relationships between and among corporate counsel, corporate leaders and owners, “inside clients” and outside counsel.
  • Lawyering Practice Externship - The Lawyering Practice Externship Course allows students to perform 8-12 hours of legal work per week in any nonprofit legal organization or governmental agency in northern Indiana or southern Michigan. Students work for state and federal prosecutors, city attorneys, and low income legal services lawyers, among others, while participating in a companion weekly seminar. 
  • Intercollegiate Athletics Externship - The Intercollegiate Externship provides an opportunity for law students to gain practical experience in intercollegiate athletics administration through an externship placement in the Notre Dame Athletic Department and a classroom component taught by Law School faculty and senior-level administrator-attorneys from the Athletic Department. Potential duties include reviewing contracts; assisting in the creation and revision of departmental policy; researching legal issues related to athletics including reviewing contracts; assisting in the creation and revision of departmental policy; researching legal issues; researching compliance issues; drafting, reviewing, and revising compliance education materials; and auditing eligibility- and other compliance-related forms.
  • Judicial Externship - The Judicial Externship course allows students to perform 8-12 hours of legal work per week in a state or federal court while participating in a companion weekly seminar. Placements are typically in the Michiana area, but students may also work in Chicago, southern Michigan, or other cities in northern Indiana. 
  • Appalachia Externship - 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. Students work with both AppalReD staff attorneys at their headquarters in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, and with a local private attorney closely associated with AppalReD who addresses a variety of civil rights and environmental issues related to rural poverty and coal mining operations. Throughout the week, students are introduced to the culture, poverty, and legal issues of this unique region.