Destination Externships and GW in NYC

SCs Brook BuildingIn the vanguard of legal pedagogy, my colleagues and I are constructing an enriching new feature of our curriculum, offering George Washington University Law School students the chance to spend a semester in New York City, engaging in a supervised externship and taking courses given by me and a rotating slate of my wonderful business law colleagues at GW Law.  

Such a destination externship is among the most visible trends in legal education. Schools, long boasting optional local semester externships coupled with an on-campus seminar, now reach to other cities, principally Washington DC, to create destination externship programs. Just in the past few years, DC externships programs have been created by Arizona State, Duke and a Berkeley-UCLA joint venture, following along older programs led by Wash U as well as Ohio State (in partnership with GW).  Students take positions in the destination city and take courses there, usually taught by the school’s own faculty, who rotate or locate in the destination town.

Many other schools took the less comprehensive step of offering to facilitate destination externships, coupled with an individually-supervised independent study paper. Again, most schools, like North Carolina, target Washington DC; some, like UCLA, target DC, and a few other big towns, like San Fran and NYC; and a handful, like Stanford, impose no geographic limits. A few schools target particular externship employers, presumably because of past experience or special screening, such as Seattle’s with the International Court of Trade in New York or Villanova’s Senate Banking Committee in Washington.

These trends toward stronger or more destination externships and programs reflect the anemic legal job market, boosting student demand and school incentives for innovative training and placement avenues. They also reflect increased student mobility and pedagogical reflection upon the utility of practical experience to accompany more traditional classroom instruction among law schools.

The striking thing about these developments is how they have tended to concentrate the destination programming in Washington DC. Perhaps this is an obvious choice because of DC’s power status as the nation’s center of law production and for the relatively large number of non-profits in town. DC’s populations of lawyers and legal institutions also have more experience with the peculiar demands of legal externships, involving requisite supervision and productive legal assignments in an ethical environment.

Yet, as suggested by willingness of some schools to support individualized destination externships in New York City, that town should be an amazing destination externship city. After all, it is a leading legal market, especially in financial matters, is a target market for many students and has many non-profits too and extensive experience with this form of pedagogy. True, NYC’s cost of living is higher than DC’s, but not vastly so, and there are bargains galore for students in the Big Apple.

In the 1990s, I organized and ran a corporate law externship program based in New York when I directed Cardozo Law School’s Heyman Center on Corporate Governance. Now, I am helping to plan a new program for GW, called GWNY (for GW in New York!).  We’ll offer our students externships, seminars, and extra-curriculars, run by me and taught by an amazing roster of full-time GW Law faculty plus adjunct professors drawn from among GW alumni practicing in Manhattan.

GWNY, not yet faculty-approved, is part of a more comprehensive program my business law colleagues and I are developing at GW Law, called the Center for Law, Economics and Finance (or C-LEAF, for short).   My wonderful GW business law colleagues working together on all this include, under the distinguished leadership of Larry Mitchell: Michael Abramowicz, Don Clarke, Lisa Fairfax, Theresa Gabaldon, Scott Kieff, Jeff Manns, Dalia Mitchell, and Art Wilmarth.

We’ll keep you posted on the GW web site and here as we develop and deliver our program.

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1 Response

  1. J says:

    Man, I wish this was available when I spent three years at GW Law when my fiancee (now wife) was in NYC. That Chinatown bus got real old . . .