At Iowa Law, the terms “field placement” and “externship” are used interchangeably to refer to legal work experiences where students earn academic credit by meeting various requirements imposed by the ABA.  Students in a field placement enroll in an accompanying externship seminar where they reflect on their field work, develop professional goals, and develop practical legal skills.  There is significant faculty involvement in the development and supervision of students in field placements.  Students often tell us that they appreciate the increased structure and support offered by the Field Placement Program.

Field placements are open to J.D. students that have completed their first year of law school.  All first-year courses in the J.D. program must have been successfully completed.

The Summer Legal Placement program is specially designed for students who have just completed their 1L year.

During the academic year, students should consider the timing and requirements of their other coursework, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities.  They should also consider if there are any prerequisites or preferred coursework that would help prepare for the placement.  In addition, for those field placements that involve court appearances, keep in mind the Iowa Student Practice Rule only permits students to appear in court after they have completed three (3) semesters of law school.  Students interested in externships in other jurisdictions should review the relevant student practice rule.

Students may not receive reimbursement for compensation for their field placement.  However, a student may receive reimbursement for reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of participation in the field placement and may also accept grants, scholarships, or stipends from the College or sources other than the field placement itself.  If the placement site or anyone outside of the law school offers to fund expenses related to your field placement, before accepting these funds, please contact the Field Placement Director to determine if this is permitted.

Iowa Law works closely with many organizations in Iowa and across the country.  Field placements must be with government agencies, judicial chambers, nonprofit legal services organizations, or corporate counsel offices.  Corporate counsel placements must also be approved by the faculty curriculum committee; similarly, all international placements must undergo faculty curriculum committee review as well.

Requirements for a field placement include the following:

  • The field placement must be in a not-for-profit organization, government agency, court or tribunal, or corporation.
    • Students may not extern at for-profit law firms.
  • The student must be engaged in substantive law-related work, meaning that there are opportunities to engage in and to observe others performing legal work. The kind of work each student performs and observes depends on the individual placement.  Typical activities include: conducting legal or factual research; conducting client or witness interviews; drafting memoranda and other legal documents; reviewing and preparing transactional documents; attending a negotiation, business meeting, or court hearing; observing attorneys performing lawyering activities; or discussing an experience with a supervising attorney, judge, or colleague.
  • The student must be supervised by a licensed attorney.
  • The position must be unpaid but students may receive stipends to cover out-of-pocket expenses or may receive third-party funding (e.g. an outside grant).

The Field Placement Program Director reviews all student-initiated field placements before approving academic credit.

Crediting & Grading

You commit to a minimum number of hours for your field placement when you enroll.  During the summer term, you must complete at least 150 hours over the course of at least six weeks.  Most students stay longer and exceed the minimum amount in order to obtain as much experience as possible. 

During the academic year, students must work at least 200 hours over the course of the semester in order to obtain a sufficiently immersive experience.  Students should start working at their placement site by the first week of classes and the field placement must continue through the semester to the last week of classes.

More information about crediting is available on the website here.

In the summer, the Summer Legal Placement (SLP) course is graded P/NP.  The 3 credits earned through the SLP are experiential credits. 

During the academic year, the field placement seminar is either 1 or 2 credits, graded numerically according to the law school’s grading scale.  The field work is credited separately and graded P/NP.  All credits (field work + seminar) are experiential credits.

Yes, students are responsible for taking into account federal holidays and possibility of inclement weather when calculating the number of hours for which they will receive credit.

No. Students may not extern for professors or programs at Iowa Law or any other educational institutions.

Planning for a Field Placement

Virtual field placements are allowed, but students should carefully consider the nature of the learning experience in a virtual field placement as opposed to an in-person externship.  For many students, working in an office setting is a valuable experience.  Students can talk with attorneys in the office and observe the inner workings of the office.  At the same time, the nature of work in a law office is changing, and virtual work provides flexibility and access.  To balance these considerations, talk with the field placement director about your goals and the potential work that you would do.

As a matter of law school policy, virtual placements initiated by students are capped at 6 credits (field work + seminar). 

No, you may only enroll in clinic OR field placement in the given semester.

Please keep in mind that if you apply to and accept a field placement, you have committed to participating in the field placement.  Our field supervisors volunteer their time to review applications and prepare for students’ participation.  Withdrawing from a field placement after accepting has consequences, and potentially takes opportunities from your classmates and future students.

It depends.  We encourage you to use this opportunity to try different types of work in different legal settings as that will add to your perspectives and professional identity.  If you would like to return to the same field placement, you must work with your supervisor to identify the types of opportunities you will have that are different, unique, and advanced beyond the opportunities you had the first semester.  A third semester at the same placement is not allowed.  You may choose to volunteer at the placement, without academic credit, at any time.

It depends.  While the Field Placement Program does not prohibit students from working while externing, it is important to budget your time so that you are able to devote sufficient time to your field work.  Students should also be mindful of potential conflicts of interest and must disclose other employment or volunteer activities to their field supervisor prior to beginning the externship.  Working in two legal positions at once is strongly discouraged due to the difficulty of screening and resolving conflicts of interest. 

The 380 Express runs between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.  Depending on your schedule and the location of the placement, this could be a great option to have someone else drive.  The coaches are equipped with wifi, power outlets, and restrooms, and the University offers discount bus passes.

Also, when you register for the field placement, we ask if you would like us to share your email with other law students with field placements in the same area. If schedules align, it may be possible to set up a carpool.

Many students find that it is helpful to have taken certain courses either before, or contemporaneous with their field placements (Criminal Procedure for externships in the field of criminal law, for example, or Business Associations for certain finance-related externships). We suggest class planning with the field placement program director.

No, field placements cannot be competed under the supervision of a family member.

The Application Process

As a general matter, United States government will only hire U.S. Citizens as externs.  This does not apply to federal courts, however, and many international students have been able to extern for federal judges.

You must apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) before you can begin work.  In order to apply for CPT, contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), log into your iHawk account and complete the “Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Request.”  If you are enrolled in the law school’s Field Placement Program, you do not need to register for the Pomerantz Center course.

If you are anticipate appearing before Iowa state or federal courts and you are enrolled in a field placement, the Field Placement Program will prepare the relevant student practice letter by the end of the first week of classes.   

In other jurisdictions, research the relevant court rules to see what the requirements are for applying for student practice. We recommend doing this early, before you start your externship, as in some jurisdictions, approval may take some time.

Make an appointment with Professor Tai Professor Tai using Calendly.  There are many things to keep in mind as you apply for a field placement and a counseling session is required to ensure a good fit for your educational goals.

Many government agencies particularly security agencies require security clearances which may delay your start date. When you received the security clearance package from the agency, fill it out and submit it immediately. Do not accept offers for positions requiring a security clearance less than one month before the start of the semester. Any student that has not received their security clearance by the first day of classes must contact the Field Placement Program. Students that have not received their clearance by the 3rd week of school will be need to withdraw from field placement program unless they can find a temporary externship placement at which they can work while awaiting the clearance.

Generally, first year students should work on their resumes and cover letters throughout the fall semester, and start reviewing listings at that time. At the latest, application materials should be completed over Winter break so you can proceed with the application process when you return to school. Most organizations expect to receive applications for summer externships in January, February and March. Some organizations are starting to hire students in November and December.

For fall and spring externships: if possible, students should generally apply for fall externships in the second half of the spring semester and during the fall semester for spring externships. However, students continue to apply for fall externships (with much success) throughout the summer.