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The Law School’s unique geographic location, situated in the nation’s most historic legal center and within easy reach of New York City and Washington DC, offers students unparalleled externship opportunities to be at the forefront of legal practice in the nation’s most prominent government offices and non-profit organizations.  Students earn academic credit while gaining valuable experience under close supervision in a wide array of placements.  

Within the Law School, students participate in biweekly tutorials with faculty where they have an opportunity to discuss and reflect upon broader lawyering issues involving professional responsibility, delivery of services, legal institutions, lawyering competence, client relations, and other related issues that arise in each setting. Outside Penn Law, students meet regularly with their externship supervisors to receive feedback on the important legal work they perform at their placement site.

Diverse Externship Opportunities


Kelsey McCowan Heilman L’10 on how her externships prepared her for work as a staff
attorney for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, focusing on health care and
public benefits.

Placements are one semester in length and generally are offered for either four or seven academic credits. All students must have successfully completed at least one year of law school before they can enroll in an externship.  Most externships are open to both second and third year students; third year students are given enrollment priority. All externships continue through the end of the examination period of each semester and benefit from flexibility in student schedules. 

The goal of Penn Law’s Externship Program is to supplement traditional classroom study and experiential study obtained through clinical courses by providing external opportunities for students to observe and participate meaningfully in lawyering at government agencies and non-profit, public interest settings.  Externships are intended to offer students in-depth study in substantive areas, supplement experiential study provided in clinical courses, and explore experiential study of subjects or activities not currently offered experientially in the curriculum. Through such study, the program hopes to enhance the development of a broad range of lawyering skills, advance personal career goals, enable critical reflection of the legal profession and legal institutions, encourage self-directed learning through reflection, and promote core competencies and professional values that produce skilled and ethical lawyers and professionals in our society. 

Externship Handbooks are distributed to all students at the beginning of each semester who are enrolled in an externship placement.  The handbook offers a more comprehensive program overview, discusses academic standards and requirements, and many other details.  Students who are not enrolled in an externship, but who would like to receive a copy of the handbook can e-mail

Students have flexibility to create their own Externships:

Ad Hoc Externships:

Students who have a demonstrated professional interest and commitment to a subject that they would like to study experientially that is not currently covered by course, clinical or seminar offerings, may propose an ad hoc externship for approval by the faculty in accordance with published guidelines.

Students have participated in these externships over recent years:

ACLU of Pennsylvania  

Aids Law Project of PA

Community Legal Services


Death Penalty Litigation at the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Defenders Office Delaware River Keeper

Federal Appellate Litigation (in partnership with the Dechert Law Firm)


Federal Bureau of Prisons Federal Public Defender (Camden, NJ)

IRS Office of Chief Counsel (Philadelphia Office)


Maryland Office of the Attorney General (Economic Crimes Division) Mazzoni Center (Legal Services Department)

Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office


National Labor Relations Board New York City Law Department

NY Attorney General’s Office


Office of the General Counsel (University of Pennsylvania & Temple University) Open Society Justice Initiative (New York)

PA Human Relations Commission


Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Philadelphia Law Department (Labor & Employment Unit) 

Philadelphia Legal Assistance      


The Pennsylvania Innocence Project U.S. Attorney’s Office

U.S. Attorney’s Office (Delaware)        


U.S. Attorney’s Office (ED NY) U. S. Department of Commerce

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency      


U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (Philadelphia Office) U.S. State Department — Office of Legal Adviser

Women’s Law Project