Externships (Field Placements)

Notre Dame Law Chicago Offices

Notre Dame Law School teaches students to think like lawyers and practice the skills that are important for success in the profession. This education includes getting out of the classroom and working on cases with real clients, lawyers, and judges.

The Law School’s broad array of externships enables students to “try out” virtually any area of law. Students may participate in externships during the academic year at nonprofit organizations, government agencies, judicial chambers, and corporate counsel offices in the South Bend area, in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and while studying abroad in London. Students can even create their own externships through the Lawyering Practice Externship.

More information for current students

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 courses include:

  • 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. Students are supported by a faculty member and a staff member who teach a companion seminar. 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 spring-semester externships in the nation’s capital with a particular focus on federal government positions. Students work four days per week in federal agencies, federal courts, executive branch offices, and congressional offices and committees.  Like the ND Law in Chicago program, students are supported by a faculty member who teaches a companion seminar on-site in Washington, D.C.
  • Seventh Circuit Practice Externship – This externship allows third-year students to represent clients before the U.S. 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 – Students assist public defenders in representing indigent clients in misdemeanor proceedings at the St. Joseph County Courthouse and in juvenile proceedings at the Juvenile Justice Center. Students spend one morning or afternoon per week representing clients by 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 – Students advise and represent northern Indiana clients believed to have been wrongfully convicted of serious crimes. Students participate in investigations and in the litigation of cases filed on behalf of those clients. 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, 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 – Students explore the practice of law from the perspective of in-house counsel. They 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 (Criminal, Governmental, and Non-Profit) – Students may perform legal work in any nonprofit legal organization or governmental agency in northern Indiana or southern Michigan. Students work for state and federal prosecutors, federal defenders, city attorneys, and low income legal services lawyers, among others, while participating in a companion weekly seminar. 
  • Intercollegiate Athletics Externship – Students 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 – Students perform legal work for state and federal court judges while participating in a companion weekly seminar. Placements are typically in the South Bend area, but students may also work part time in Chicago, southern Michigan, or other cities in northern Indiana. In addition to assisting judges with legal research and writing, students are able to observe court proceedings and discuss them with judges and law clerks.
  • Appalachia Externship – Each fall break and spring break, six Notre Dame law students spend a full week assisting low income legal services attorneys in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky with a variety of legal matters. Students have an opportunity to work one-on-one with clients. Throughout the week, students are introduced to the culture, poverty, and legal issues of the unique and fascinating Central Appalachia region.