Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

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Ialdabaoth
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Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby Ialdabaoth » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:29 pm

I'm interested in public interest environmental law and am considering several t14 schools (applying next cycle). Can anyone speak to the relative strengths, weaknesses, or differences between environmental law clinics and environmental field placements/externships. From the research I've done so far it appears that the type of work one would complete in either would be very similar. I'm especially interested in NYU (would have to be ED with my numbers--~3.94/4.0 UGPA and 168) and Berkeley. Berkeley does not have an environmental law clinic but appears to have an active placement program.

Anyone with ties or knowledge of these or other similar programs? Also, any thoughts on other top schools to target for public interest environmental law?

Thanks in advance!

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vamedic03
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby vamedic03 » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:35 pm

Ialdabaoth wrote:I'm interested in public interest environmental law and am considering several t14 schools (applying next cycle). Can anyone speak to the relative strengths, weaknesses, or differences between environmental law clinics and environmental field placements/externships. From the research I've done so far it appears that the type of work one would complete in either would be very similar. I'm especially interested in NYU (would have to be ED with my numbers--~3.94/4.0 UGPA and 168) and Berkeley. Berkeley does not have an environmental law clinic but appears to have an active placement program.

Anyone with ties or knowledge of these or other similar programs? Also, any thoughts on other top schools to target for public interest environmental law?

Thanks in advance!


I wouldn't make this your determinative factor. Don't focus too much on particular areas of the law before you are exposed to law in law school - you won't know what really piques your interest until you start experiencing it. Plus, environmental law tends to be very statutory/administrative law oriented.

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paratactical
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby paratactical » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:46 pm

vamedic03 wrote: Plus, environmental law tends to be very statutory/administrative law oriented.

Not to mention that it generally involves working for the "bad guys", if you want to have a job at all.

tarp
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby tarp » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:06 pm

You can work for the good guys... pro bono that is.

In response to the OP: Any decent law school will have clinical or externship opportunities that include environmental law. Every large city has some environmental law nonprofit orgs that you can do externships at.

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby Ialdabaoth » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:29 pm

vamedic03 wrote:
Ialdabaoth wrote:I'm interested in public interest environmental law and am considering several t14 schools (applying next cycle). Can anyone speak to the relative strengths, weaknesses, or differences between environmental law clinics and environmental field placements/externships. From the research I've done so far it appears that the type of work one would complete in either would be very similar. I'm especially interested in NYU (would have to be ED with my numbers--~3.94/4.0 UGPA and 168) and Berkeley. Berkeley does not have an environmental law clinic but appears to have an active placement program.

Anyone with ties or knowledge of these or other similar programs? Also, any thoughts on other top schools to target for public interest environmental law?

Thanks in advance!


I wouldn't make this your determinative factor. Don't focus too much on particular areas of the law before you are exposed to law in law school - you won't know what really piques your interest until you start experiencing it. Plus, environmental law tends to be very statutory/administrative law oriented.


Clinical opportunities aren't the primary factor I'm considering, but I have strong environmental undergraduate experiences and personal interest in PI environmental work. Even if I do ultimately find some of the coursework dry, my career goals and the types of organizations I would like to work for will value clinical/externship environmental experience.

Thanks for your perspective! I really do appreciate it and understand that other areas of law might interest me in law school.

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby Ialdabaoth » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:41 pm

paratactical wrote:
vamedic03 wrote: Plus, environmental law tends to be very statutory/administrative law oriented.

Not to mention that it generally involves working for the "bad guys", if you want to have a job at all.


I've talked to attorneys in my city about this and realize that a lot of environmental firm work is on "the other side." But that's why I specified that I want to pursue an (eventual) career in PI environmental law. I also realize that PI and government positions are extremely competitive. However, it is not impossible to have a successful public interest environmental law career (with low debt and/or good LRAP), and I'm not opposed to gaining experience in another setting before attempting to get a PI job.

And I don't see things as being quite as black and white as "bad guys" and "good guys." I know you might have been being sarcastic with this and might think I'm a hippie environmentalist type, but I'm really more realistic and think that "good" environmental work can come out of firms, e.g. brownfields redevelopment, plaintiff-side environmental litigation, and legitimate regulatory compliance.

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby Ialdabaoth » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:46 pm

tarp wrote:You can work for the good guys... pro bono that is.

In response to the OP: Any decent law school will have clinical or externship opportunities that include environmental law. Every large city has some environmental law nonprofit orgs that you can do externships at.


All the schools I'm considering do have some "clinical or externship opportunities" in environmental. But why basic question is this: Generally, are there any substantial differences between the types of experience I could gain taking an environmental law clinical course vs. having a good environmental law externship placement with a PI organization?

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paratactical
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby paratactical » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:48 pm

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Last edited by paratactical on Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby Ialdabaoth » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:05 pm

paratactical wrote:
Ialdabaoth wrote:
paratactical wrote:
vamedic03 wrote: Plus, environmental law tends to be very statutory/administrative law oriented.

Not to mention that it generally involves working for the "bad guys", if you want to have a job at all.


I've talked to attorneys in my city about this and realize that a lot of environmental firm work is on "the other side." But that's why I specified that I want to pursue an (eventual) career in PI environmental law. I also realize that PI and government positions are extremely competitive. However, it is not impossible to have a successful public interest environmental law career (with low debt and/or good LRAP), and I'm not opposed to gaining experience in another setting before attempting to get a PI job.

And I don't see things as being quite as black and white as "bad guys" and "good guys." I know you might have been being sarcastic with this and might think I'm a hippie environmentalist type, but I'm really more realistic and think that "good" environmental work can come out of firms, e.g. brownfields redevelopment, plaintiff-side environmental litigation, and legitimate regulatory compliance.


You sound like you know the score and are aware of the difficulties. If my post sounded snide or sarcastic, it's because there are frequently people who come to this site who say they want to do environmental law and are incredibly ignorant as to the difficulties they will face in looking for employment.

Since you seem to get it, the key is prestige, not specialized programs. Focus on good LRAP (which NYU has) and good ranking. I would definitely ED to NYU if I were in your shoes.


Thanks and I see where you're coming from. I also used to be one of those people who thought I could go to Vermont Law School and get a job straight away with Earthjustice or DOJ ENRD :) So I've gained a lot from TLS in that regard.

I'm liking NYU more and more as I read more about it, but I'm sort of afraid to ED there, especially since I probably won't be able to visit prior to applying. And Berkeley's been a dream for a while... sigh... haha.

Thanks again for your advice!

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby Ialdabaoth » Sun Jan 16, 2011 1:48 pm

Bump to see if anyone has a take on the original question: Generally, are there any substantial differences between the types of experience I could gain taking an environmental law clinical course vs. having a good environmental law externship placement with a PI organization? This could also apply for other types of PI work.

Anyone participated in both a clinic and an externship program? TIA!

tarp
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby tarp » Sun Jan 16, 2011 1:58 pm

Clinical experiences allow you to learn at a slower, more academic pace. You are more closely supervised by a practicing attorney who is also an academic. Your hand is held through the whole process of learning how to represent a client.

Externships are more variable. Some of them could be similar to clinics, but many of them are more hands-off, where you are given guidance when you ask for it and the supervising attorney does watch over your work, but won't edit your briefs at every draft. Clinics, on the other hand, usually are more on the micro-management level. I think it's definitely better to do a clinic first, since you can learn a lot more and have it sink in better, before going for an externship.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby vanwinkle » Sun Jan 16, 2011 2:14 pm

Ialdabaoth wrote:Bump to see if anyone has a take on the original question: Generally, are there any substantial differences between the types of experience I could gain taking an environmental law clinical course vs. having a good environmental law externship placement with a PI organization? This could also apply for other types of PI work.

Anyone participated in both a clinic and an externship program? TIA!

Practically I believe there's little difference between a clinic and an externship. Both place you with an organization providing legal services for a semester and give you practical experience and exposure to real-world legal duties. In fact, there seems to be some overlap in the way the two are used.

At CLS, it looks like the key difference is that a clinic is a program that's actually part of the law school; that is, you're working for an organization that provides legal services, but that organization is part of the law school and run by law school faculty. An externship puts you in an outside organization (such as a PD or DA's office) to get experience working for them. I had not encountered this distinction before; I was really confused when I first looked at CLS' clinical offerings and found they had zero criminal law clinics. I eventually realized they offered the things I was used to being called "clinics" but they called them "externships".

HLS refers to an externship as a form of clinic under their clinical programs, but some of their clinics place you with outside organizations as well.

UVA Law refers to all their offerings as clinics, whether you're working through an internally-run clinic or an outside organization like the Legal Aid Justice Center or local PD/DA's office. They have an "externship" program called the External Studies Program, but that's something that puts you with an external employer for the full semester and gives you a full's semester worth of credits (12 to be exact). Everything else is called a clinic.

The line between a clinic and an externship isn't all that important. What's important is that you get substantive legal work and not just do classroom study while you're in law school, because those substantive experiences are what help you sell yourself to employers and help you build the practical skills you'll need as a lawyer post-graduation. Working for an outside organization has the extra bonus of giving you a chance to meet people who might possibly be willing to hire you someday and impress them early, but you should also keep in mind that most PI organizations that take clinic/externship students will take a lot more of them than they hire new attorneys each year, so that's not a sure thing either.

And if your goal is to network as much as possible, you can still do that in other ways (summer internships, winter break/spring break internships, volunteering over the course of the summer not-for-credit). In fact, going to NYU would probably be great for that because there will be a huge number of PI orgs in NYC that you could find to volunteer for and bolster your resume with even outside of the for-credit offerings the school offers.

In short, don't make a big deal about whether what a school offers is a "clinic" or an "externship". It doesn't matter that much in the long run, not nearly as much as things like school network/prestige, grades, and your resume in total.

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Ialdabaoth
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Re: Clinics vs. Externships/Field Placement Programs

Postby Ialdabaoth » Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:01 pm

Tarp and vanwinkle, thanks so much for your answers! I still have a lot of thinking before I decide whether I want to ED to NYU next year or just hope I get in Berkeley, but I'm glad the externship vs. clinic issue is pretty much moot point.




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