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Michigan State Law Connects Students to Real-World Training

Law students don’t have to wait until graduation to begin applying the knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom. At Michigan State Law, students are connected to a vast network of hundreds of employers who partner with the Law College to offer real-world training through its externship program.

“At MSU Law, we believe strongly that externships are an important part of developing the necessary skill set to succeed in the legal profession,” said Elliot Spoon, assistant dean for career development. “In summer 2012, we helped place 237 students at 133 sites in 23 states and abroad.”

Externships offered through MSU Law’s Career Services Office help students enhance their legal analysis, negotiation, problem-solving, and communication skills as they perform legal work at hundreds of sites throughout the United States and abroad. Students directly interact with clients, constituent groups, attorneys, legislators, members of the judiciary, and others in the field of law.

“Beyond gaining practical experience and earning academic credit, externships help students explore career options and develop a network of professionals who will help prepare them for a smooth transition into their first legal positions,” said Spoon.

Among the most recent additions to the list of externship opportunities are placements through the newly established Lori E. Talsky Center for Human Rights of Women and Children. The Center provides funding for student externs to work at organizations that focus on international human rights and humanitarian law, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, and organizations in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and elsewhere.

“My externship was very fulfilling on both a professional and personal level, and helped me tailor my interests in the human rights field,” said 3L Namira Islam, who was a Summer 2012 extern at the ICTY at The Hague in the Netherlands. “I gained a much deeper understanding of human rights law, experience with the workings of a judicial chamber, and I now understand the progression of a case and what is needed at each step more fully.”

The Washington, DC, Semester Program is another centerpiece of MSU Law’s externship program. Law students are placed at a host of federal agencies and related organizations such as the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, to name a few.

“MSU Law has a great reputation with federal agencies, thanks to the network of Law College faculty involved in the Washington, DC, Semester Program and the fellow alumni who were hired following their externships,” says Rachel Dowell, ’11. “This exposure gives MSU Law grads an edge in a town that can be hard to break into.” Externships also provide students with an understanding of the practice of law “in the trenches” and an opportunity to more significantly appreciate what it means to work in the legal profession.

“Externships give you real experiences that employers want to hear about. Employers don’t need to hear about your classes; they want to hear about the motions you drafted, the research you did, the cases you handled, and the people you interacted with,” said 2L Daniel Eyer. “When I interviewed with firms, my stories of real courtroom experience were far more impressive than a story about a classroom experience.”

Externships can also help MSU Law students to better position themselves as more marketable candidates for potential employment. Employers are looking for graduates who possess both theoretical and practical knowledge and experience.

Although externships are not required, all MSU Law students are strongly encouraged to consider one or more placements during their time at the Law College. The Career Services Office holds informational meetings each semester about the Externship Program. More information can be found at www.law.msu.edu/career.


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