Law School Creates Federal Government Externship Program in Washington

Full-Semester Offering to Be Available to Third-Year Students Starting this Fall


Public Affairs, 212-854-2650
New York, March 22, 2010 -- Columbia Law School will offer a full-semester externship on the federal government in Washington that will give students hands-on experience in government law offices, said Ellen Chapnick, Dean for Social Justice Initiatives.
The program, set to début this fall, will accept up to 12 third-year students, who, in addition to their placements at federal agencies, will also be required to attend a weekly seminar and write a substantive research paper.
“This is a rare opportunity for students to get a first-hand look at the life of a government lawyer while also having an opportunity to make a valued contribution at the agency where they are placed,” Chapnick said. “It’s the kind of experience that will serve them well no matter where their career path takes them.”
After acceptance, the externs will apply to the government agencies that interest them the most. Each agency will identify the externs that interest them, and Chapnick’s office will make final matches based on the preferences of the students and the agencies.
The externship has the following three components:
  • Field Placements: Students will work a minimum of 30 hours a week doing substantive legal work at a federal agency. Chapnick said options are expected to include several sections of the Department of Justice, the Departments of Health and Human Services; Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency; the Federal Communications Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Seminar: Students will take a close look at the roles lawyers play in federal offices in Washington. The seminar will be taught by Law School faculty and a Washington-based adjunct professor. The seminar, which will also feature guest speakers, will have a substantive writing component.
  • Supervised Research: Each student will be required to produce an 8,000-10,000-word research paper on a topic closely linked to the externship and their field placement. Externs will be encouraged to consult with the agency where they are working to develop their topic.

“This externship is part of a broader effort to enhance our third year curriculum," said David M. Schizer, Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law.  “The world is changing in exciting ways, and our curriculum has to change as well, so that we continue to offer our students deep and rigorous engagement with the latest trends in our profession.”

Nathaniel Persily, the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, and Trevor Morrison, Professor of Law, Vice Dean, worked with Chapnick to develop the externship. Morrison, who has served in two offices at the Department of Justice, returned to the Law School in December after working a year as an associate counsel at the White House.
The externship will run concurrently with the fall 2010 semester.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.