Externship Programs

A guide to externship programs offered from W&L Law.


Externships at Washington and Lee offer students the opportunity to work in placements off-campus as part of a unique educational experience that moves the student toward the world of legal practice. Students may participate in the WILF Externship Semester (full-time), or the part-time General Externship Courses, Judicial Externship Program, or Prosecutor Clinic. Approved placements may be with state and federal judges, state and federal Prosecutor offices, state and federal Offices of Public Defenders, corporate and university counsel, legal services, and other public interest organizations, private law firms, government agencies, as well as other legal offices. 

Externship opportunities serve a critical role in third-year experiential learning. Students engage in off-campus placement contemporaneous with a classroom component. Both are designed to engage the student in critical thinking about the law, lawyering, and professional identity and move the student toward the world of legal practice. Enrollment in an externship course satisfies the "actual practice" requirement of the Washington and Lee University School of Law third-year curriculum. Ideally, students will strive to accomplish four things in an externship:

  • Improve their legal skills, such as research, writing and analysis or negotiation, client communication and courtroom demeanor;
  • Increase their knowledge of a substantive area of law such as criminal justice, administrative law, corporate law, or employment law;
  • Learn the mission and administration of an agency, court, or non-profit or for-profit entity and explore how the organization accomplishes its mission; and
  • Perhaps most importantly, begin to develop a concept of professional identity.

Student externs work full-time in the WILF program while placed in national and international placements and participate in a Zoom class. The rest of the externship courses are part-time externship programs where students work in local legal placements for one to two days a week at their externship site (depending upon the course placement credits) and must be enrolled in an accompanying in-person seminar taught by Washington and Lee's Externship Program Director and Professor of Practice, Keri Gould, or other designated externship faculty. Externship faculty maintain an ongoing "conversation" with supervisors, who participate in a site visit midpoint in the semester and are asked to evaluate their extern near the close of the semester.

Interested students are strongly advised to meet with Professor Gould well before they need to rank their actual practice preferred courses. WILF and General Externship placements need to be applied for at least one semester prior to the externship. It is best if students have met with Professor Gould and have a placement or have applied to placements prior to the actual practice application process usually held in March of the 2L year.

For questions about the externship program, please view the information and links available at law.wlu.edu/externships or contact Professor Gould at (540) 458-8133 or gouldk@wlu.edu.



Washington and Lee School of Law offers 4 different Externship Courses that provide dynamic experiential opportunities for students to learn law, legal process, and professionalism outside of the law school while still benefitting from law school oversight. The wide variety of placements include public interest organizations, government agencies, law firms, prosecution and defender organizations, judicial chambers, in-house counsels' offices, and others, that allow students to experience real life lawyering in transactional, litigation and/or policy law. Some placements allow 3rd year students to practice pursuant to their 3rd year practice certificate.

At this time students may only enroll in one Externship Course during their time at W&L, except for the two semester WDVA U.S. Attorney placement. (Students selected for this externship opportunity must enroll in the Fall Prosecution Externship and may enroll in the Spring General Externship).


Each externship program combines experiential credits earned by working in legal placements under the guidance of a Mentor Attorney with a contemporaneous externship seminar. There is a contemporaneous classroom component for all externship placements. The externship curriculum is designed to encourage student reflection, professional development, and the critical examination of their externship experience. Each extern works under the supervision of a Mentor Attorney who agrees to meet with the extern regularly, give feedback on their work, and evaluate their growth in legal skills and professionalism. The Director of Externships and/or the Externship professor maintain contact with the Mentor Attorneys through site visits, a final evaluation, and/or telephone conversations. The final evaluations focus on the quality of the extern's work process and product and their development as a lawyer.

The application materials for each externship program are slightly different. When ranking any of the externship courses make sure to carefully read the application instructions. Students interested in applying for the WILF and/or General Externship Programs are strongly urged to meet with Professor Gould the semester before you apply.

Remote Work

Legal practice and work schedules have changed since the pandemic. Some lawyers continue to work in-person full-time while others opt for a hybrid or even fully remote schedule. However, more and more law offices are insisting on 3 or 4 day in-the-office schedules. An externship experience is much richer if it is in-person, assuming that much of the office is also in-person. Unless a different schedule is approved by Professor Gould, the General Externship courses (part-time) require at least one in-person day every week with the rest of the weekly required hours satisfied remotely, and and the WILF Semester (full-time) requires at least a half-time in-person commitment.


All approved externship placements must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Students must be engaged in substantial, authentic legal work at the placement. To the extent possible, the work should place the student in a lawyer's role.
  • The students' work may not be compensated nor may it be billed. This does not preclude the placement from reimbursing a student for travel or other expenses incurred as a direct result of the placement's work.
  • The Mentor Attorney serves as the mentor for the extern at the placement. The designated mentor is generally expected to have direct contact with the student each day the student is physically at the placement or scheduled to work remotely, be available to answer the extern's questions, and to provide specific feedback on assignments and tasks given to the extern. This does not preclude the student from working with additional attorneys and staff at the placement.
  • The Mentor Attorney will give students the opportunity to perform a variety of legal tasks in order to develop various lawyering skills.
  • The Mentor Attorney will complete a formal evaluation of each student at the end of the semester and agrees to meet with the faculty member during a scheduled site visit.
  • The Mentor Attorney will have routine contact with the designated externship faculty teaching the corresponding classroom component. The Mentor Attorney will work with the extern to develop and encourage appropriate learning goals and objectives.
  • The Mentor Attorney will provide sufficient resources, material, and information to allow each extern to successfully perform their work. When in-person at the placement, the Mentor Attorney will insure that there is adequate work space in a safe environment.
  • The externship is primarily an educational opportunity for the benefit of the student.