Join us for the DC Field Placement Program

Over the years, many Iowa Law students have spent a semester away from Iowa City to pursue a field placement in other cities. The DC Program provides students an opportunity to spend a semester in DC with a cohort of classmates while acquiring exposure to the unique legal environment of the Nation's Capital.

All students can benefit from the chance to witness federal lawmaking firsthand whether they wish to live in DC long-term or not. Through the DC program, students can deepen their understanding of federal law by working in a government agency, or with a judge or non-profit public interest organization.

Students will take a 2-credit seminar focused on the work of attorneys in the DC area. There will be opportunities to hear from DC-based attorneys and Iowa Law alumni, tour institutions such as the Supreme Court or Congress, and learn firsthand the process for federal lawmaking.  Students are paired with alumni mentors during their time in DC, and there will be events to facilitate networking with DC area alumni.

Additional Information

A myriad of opportunities for legal work is available in DC, ranging in setting and legal subject area.  Participants in the DC program should think carefully about their interests and goals for a full time semester away externship and search for organizations with work that fits those goals.

More information about searching for and applying for opportunities is here. For an idea of what other Iowa Law students have done, here's some organizations students have recently worked with in DC:

  • ABA Rule of Law Initiative
  • Ayuda
  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Department of Commerce
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency, Office of the Chief Counsel
  • Federal Railroad Administration
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • FINRA
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • International Trade Commission, Office of Unfair Import Investigations
  • Securities Exchange Commission 
  • Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Tahirih Justice Center 
  • Transportation Security Administration, Civil Rights Division
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • U.S. Department of Justice, various divisions
    • Antitrust
    • Criminal Division, Fraud Section
    • Executive Office for Immigration Review,
    • National Courts
    • Office of Legal Policy
  • U.S. House of Representatives

There are many resources for researching and identifying potential organizations for a DC-based externship. All placements must be approved by the law school for academic credit, so please do not accept any externships until the Field Placement Director has reviewed the program.  The DC Program requires that students perform legal work, in a government or non-profit setting, supervised by an attorney. Because students receive academic credit, they may not be paid.

Students are responsible for searching for and applying to placements.  The Career Services Office, Professor Tai, and other faculty are available to advise on possible placements. The Career Services Office also maintains many guides for finding government and non-profit jobs. In addition, the following resources may be helpful for ideas.  

Students may earn one credit hour for every 50 hours of work they perform in the field. In addition, students are required to take a 2-credit seminar or tutorial in the same semester as their field placement.

Learning objectives for the seminar include:

  • Examining the role of attorneys in DC, both within the federal government and in organizations working with or interacting with the federal government
  • Understanding and witnessing the function of administrative agencies and the process of federal lawmaking; and
  • Reflecting upon the students' collective field work experiences and how they may affect their professional identity and development.

The seminar will include guest speakers with experience working in each branch of the federal government and from non-profits and lobbying firms interacting with the federal government.

Students considering a field placement should plan carefully and map out a schedule accommodates class times and any other commitments.  In doing so, students can consult the chart below and also consider the number of days they may be able to spend in the workplace over the course of the semester, while allowing some buffer for weather delays, illness, studying or other time outside work.  Students should also take into account holidays in which their placement office may be closed.

Total Credits

Academic Credits (graded)

Fieldwork Credits (graded pass/fail)

Total hours on site; 50 hours per fieldwork credit)

Hours per week  for 14 weeks

Days per week for 14 weeks

12

2

10

500

36

4.5

11

2

 9

450

32

4

10

2

 8

400

28.5

3.5

 9

2

 7

350

25

3+

 8

2

 6

300

21.4

2.5+

 7

2

 5

250

18

2+

 6

2

 4

200

14

2

NOTE: The Summer Legal Placement course offering (LAW:9335) is set at 3 credit hours, pass/fail, for a minimum of 150 hours on-site and participation in an on-line seminar

 In addition to considering the crediting for the field placement itself, students should consider the other courses and opportunities they may wish to pursue while meeting the relevant graduation requirements.

If you are interested in being a part of the DC Program, here are your next steps:

  1. Research possible placements. Suggestions for starting your search are below.
  2. Make an appointment with Prof. Tai to discuss your course planning and interests.
  3. Apply for positions and let Prof. Tai know your progress.

The following information may be a helpful starting point to finding housing in Washington DC for a semester-long externship.  Students are responsible for arranging their own housing.  Iowa Law does not endorse any of the organizations linked below or make any guarantees about the condition of the housing.

Housing Resources

Below are links to popular housing websites. Some are specifically marketed towards student interns.


Popular Neighborhoods

 

 In the District

  • Woodley Park
  • DuPont Circle
  • Logan Circle
  • Shaw
  • Capitol Hill
  • Columbia Heights
  • Adams Morgan

 DC Suburbs

  • Arlington, VA
  • Alexandria, VA
  • Bethesda, MD
  • Silver Spring, MD

Planning for Life in DC

 

Parking

Will you bring your vehicle to DC? If so, consider whether your housing includes a parking spot, or if there is street parking. Depending on your neighborhood, a car may not be necessary and you may be able to use a car sharing service (e.g., Zipcar) if a car is needed.

Amenities

What features do you need?  What would you like to have? 

Consider whether you need a washer/dryer, dishwasher, or elevator.  If your unit does not have laundry onsite, how close are you to the local laundromat or and dry cleaner? 

Is it furnished? 

Are utilities like electricity, water, gas or internet included? 

Consider where you'd be shopping for groceries or household goods.  If you find housing located some distance from a grocery store, think about whether you can use public transit, or a grocery delivery service (e.g., Instacart or Peapod). 

Some DC neighborhoods are known for vibrant nightlife. Consider your preferences for a more busy or quiet area.

Above all, be flexible.  Keep in mind that this is a short term arrangement and that some creativity can go a long way.


Other Considerations

 

Location, location, location

Make sure to consult the metro map. Identify your field placement site and its proximity to a metro station or bus stop. Focus on neighborhoods on a direct metro line or with a minimum number of transfers to your field placement location.

Although the rent in DC can be high, finding a unit within your price range is possible! In general, rent prices decrease as you move further away from city center. Many people who work in DC live in the suburbs and commute into the city on the Metrorail. Consider finding housing in a suburban location in Northern VA (e.g., Arlington, Alexandria) or Southern Maryland (e.g., Bethesda, Silver Spring). 

Be persistent

DC is known as a “landlord’s market,” meaning that there are typically several housing applicants seeking the same unit. When applying for an apartment, keep in mind that it may take several rounds of applications before finding housing that works with the externship time frame with a landlord who will accept a short-term renter.  Start the search early!  If it an in-person walkthrough of an apartment not possible, consider arranging a video chat walkthrough with the landlord.