Washington DC Externship Semester
About the DC Externship
Second and third-year law students are eligible to participate in the Washington, DC, Externship Semester. During this time period, students work under the supervision of practicing attorneys and absorb the culture and unique learning opportunities that Washington, DC, has to offer.
Second- and third-year law students are eligible to participate in the Washington, DC, Externship Semester if they have a minimum GPA of 2.5 (unless the student receives waiver of this requirement by the Academic Dean) and receive approval for the externship position from Professor Nancy Hunt, Director of the Washington, DC, Externship Semester.
Externship parameters require that students engage in legal work, that students be supervised by an attorney, and that positions be unpaid (certain stipends are permitted). Students may not complete externships in for-profit law firms. Students completing externships in DC must enroll in and are expected to complete work equivalent to 10 credit hours during the semester (525 total working hours). Students may enroll in fewer than 10 credits only with permission from the Director of the DC Externship Semester.
Pursuant to ABA rules, every 52.5 hours of completed earns one unit of course credit. Hours are not accrued during travel time, lunch, breaks, or holidays, or while working from an unsupervised location including home. Credit can be granted only in 52.5-hour increments; in other words, 104 hours of fieldwork earns only one unit of credit. Students completing full-time externships in DC may earn no more than 10 hours of externship credit for the semester. No more than 18 non-classroom units (externships, journals, or competitions) may be counted toward the JD degree.
Externships are graded High Pass/Pass/Credit/Fail, based on students' performance in their externships, in the Workshop, and in the periodic journals, as well as the completion of all required time sheets, forms, and evaluations.
All DC Externship students are required to enroll in and attend the Washington, DC, Externship Workshop, where students reflect on their externship experiences and actively participate in group discussion on topics including legal, ethical, and managerial issues that arise in the workplace, as well as effective lawyering skills. Students are also required to complete a periodic journal in connection with the Workshop. Students must complete the journal and Workshop requirements in order to receive academic credit for their externships.
The DC Externship Workshop meets alternating Wednesdays from 5:00-6:00 pm, with dinner provided. Hours spent in the Workshop count towards externship hours (52.5 hours per unit) for academic credit.
In addition to the Workshop, there are two additional courses offered in Washington, DC. Lawyering in the Nation's Capital is required of all students participating in the Washington, DC, Externship Semester. Advanced Legal Writing, although not required, is specifically designed to complement the writing experience student are getting in their externships. Advanced Legal Writing satisfies the upper-division writing requirement and is graded High Pass/Pass/Credit/Fail. Course descriptions for both classes follow below.
Lawyering in the Nation's Capital (2 Units)
Course Description: This course will survey the roles of attorneys in the three branches of government, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, and lobbying firms, with a focus on the role of these attorneys in creating, defining, challenging, and upholding the federal rule of law. Topics may include examining the roles of general counsels and attorney advisors in agencies, how attorneys within the three branches protect their branches' roles and attempt to guide or control other branches, and lobbying in DC. The course will also examine, from a policy perspective, the propriety of government attorneys' roles – both in theory and in practice. Guest speakers, student debate, and the examination of the constitutional and statutory authority for these attorney roles will facilitate class discussion.
Advanced Legal Writing (2 Units)
Course Description: This course exposes students to various forms of legal writing that attorneys use in daily practice, including adversarial writing, non-adversarial factual writing, adjudicatory writing, and opinion writing. This course supplements the first-year Legal Research and Writing course through a broader range of drafting assignments, including, for example, writing and editing formal and informal memoranda, letters, motions and pleadings, and decisions. Students will work on producing grammatically correct, logically cohesive, and analytically sound legal analysis. This course satisfies the upper-division writing requirement.
Elective Courses at Local Law Schools
With permission from the Academic Dean, DC Externship Students who want to take courses not offered by Pepperdine are permitted to take elective courses at one of the following DC-area law schools: American University Washington College of Law, The Catholic University of American Columbus School of Law, George Mason University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, The George Washington University Law School, and Howard University School of Law. Students are responsible for seeking permission from the Academic Dean to take elective courses, for applying to the approved law school, and for paying all tuition and fees to DC-area law schools for such courses.
Students are encouraged to take advantage of numerous networking opportunities throughout the semester, including alumni-student events. Students are encouraged to make their own connections, as well. Opportunities for DC Externship students to build connections with local attorneys, exposing them to a diverse variety of DC-area legal jobs and potentially opening new career paths, include
DC Orientation Alumni-Student Social
Following Orientation, there will be an informal student/alumni reception for students to socialize and meet area alumni, specifically those participating in the Alumni Advisory Committee or Mentor Programs. Students will be encouraged to seek out alumni doing things that interest them, and mentor matches will be made, in part, out of connections made at this event.
Meeting DC Attorneys
Over the course of the semester, DC Externship students are constantly called upon to assess and reassess areas of the law that interest them and to research various offices and organizations where they might want to work. Students are encouraged to meet attorneys (including alumni) working in areas of the law or specific offices that interest them.
Alumni Mentor Program
Washington, DC, Pepperdine Law Alumni volunteer to serve as mentors to our DC Externship students. Mentors are encouraged to meet with their mentees several times over the course of the semester, to provide the students with advice about potential post-graduate job opportunities, and to help students increase their networks in the DC area.
The annual Alumni/DC Student Spring Reception will allow students participating in the DC Externship Semester an additional opportunity to meet local alumni.
Class speakers represent a varied sampling of DC attorneys, and all of our speakers are willing to speak students outside of class about possible career options.
The DC semester begins with a tour of Washington, DC, as part of Orientation. Over the course of the semester, students also tour the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress. In addition to planned group events for DC students, the city has a multitude of attractions and events for students to enjoy in their free time. From the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center to touring monuments and memorials, from festivals to sports events, there is something for everyone in DC. Non-profit organizations present a multitude of special events promoting their interests, and political events for everyone on the spectrum abound – this is Washington, DC!
Why choose the DC Externship semester?
- Students gain a practical understanding of how our country creates, interprets, upholds, and enforces federal law.
- Students seeking post-graduate employment in Washington, DC, build their resumes with relevant experience, enabling them to effectively compete with students from DC-area law schools.
- Students who have devoted a semester of their legal education to participating in the DC Externship Semester demonstrate a commitment to Washington, DC – providing assurance to future employers in the DC area that they will relocate there upon graduation and that they are committed to jobs in the public service.
- Students who are unsure about relocating to Washington, DC, after graduation can "try out" the DC area within the structure of the Externship Experience.
- Washington, DC, sets much of the nation's legal and political agenda. Future employers across the country value work experience in DC, particularly full-time externship experience, because students with this experience have a unique perspective on the areas of law in which they worked.
- The semester in DC creates numerous opportunities for students to network and foster professional relationships, and provides advice on how to artfully use those connections to create potential post-grad job opportunities.
How to Participate
Steps to Participate in the Washington, DC, Externship Semester:
- Review the website information about the DC Externship Semester to ensure that you qualify and that you understand the requirements.
- Send an email expressing your interest to Professor Nancy Hunt. You will be placed on the email list for interested students and will receive important updates and information.
- Seek academic counseling as needed for issues pertaining to fulfilling your graduation requirements.
- Begin your search for externships, under the guidance of Professor Hunt and the Career Development Office.
- Attend the September luncheon meeting (date and location TBA) at the Law School regarding the Washington, DC, Externship Semester.
- Sign up for a meeting time with Professor Hunt during her September visit to campus.
- Complete the Online Application.
- Let Professor Hunt know immediately when you have secured an externship, and forward the contact information for your supervisor so the placement may be confirmed and approved.
- Review the Handbook for the Washington, DC, Externship Semester.
- Complete the Student Performance Agreement and the Externship Registration Form.
- Make travel arrangements and secure housing (limited graduate housing may be available on the graduate floor of Pepperdine's Washington, DC, building).
- Attend Mandatory Orientation for all Washington, DC, Externship students in early January (Date TBA).
Director, Washington DC Externship Semester
Assistant Clinical Professor of Law
B.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1996
JD, cum laude, Pepperdine University, 2001
Professor Hunt graduated cum laude from Pepperdine Law in 2001. She served as Editor-in-Chief of the Pepperdine Law Review and was awarded membership in the Order of Barristers for her work on Pepperdine's Moot Court, Trial, and Honors Trial Teams. After graduation, Professor Hunt clerked for the Honorable Jonathan Steinberg on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and subsequently practiced mortgage-banking litigation with the firm Weiner Brodsky Sidman Kider, PC, in Washington, DC.
Professor Hunt has directed the externship semester in Washington DC since its inception in 2011, and has developed courses that complement the externship experience. She teaches Advanced Legal Writing, Lawyering in the Nation's Capital, and the DC Clinical Law Workshop.
Professor Hunt is a member of the Bar in California and the District of Columbia and is admitted to practice in various U.S. District Courts. She is active pro bono counsel before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Veterans Claims, with the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program.
Advice from Former DC Externship Students
"Do not pass up any opportunities to observe your superiors in meetings."
"(1) Use Yelp to help you explore the best of the city; (2) Find the right person in DC to develop a mentorship relationship with, write them handwritten thank-you letters, and continue to invest in those positive relationships/mentorships as time goes by; (3) Pass up on relationships that are not the right fit or that threaten your goals/principles - there is such a thing as bad advice and a waste of time, and if someone does not share your foundational values or broad goals, they will likely not be a worthwhile long term relationship."
"Washington is all about networking and getting to know people, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. Don't waste your time - and your reputation - getting to know everyone for the sake of getting to know people. Focus on meeting a smaller number of better connected people instead."
"If you do not already have a good mentor, then find one. Having a great mentor made my experience here in DC invaluable."
"Follow the old saying 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.' The capital city is an expert networking town - and you will become an expert in short time. Just expect that every person you meet has something valuable to give you, and you have something valuable to give to them, and you will always be pleasantly surprised when you find out exactly what it is. Then you can truly appreciate the city for all it's worth."
"Network as much as possible. Reach out to a person you find interesting, whether it be for coffee or lunch, and have a conversation with them. People enjoy talking about themselves, meeting someone for lunch is a casual way to learn about their career, receive advice, and gain insight into whether their field is right for you."
"Take advantage of DC's opportunities to witness our government in action (supreme court arguments, agency and other hearings, etc.), and don't put those off until the end of the semester."
"Never turn down an opportunity or assignment. Volunteer for any task, no matter how small; your demonstrated work ethic and teamwork will be rewarded in turn and will leave the kind of lasting impression upon your supervisors that will get your name floating around the upper management circles and set you up for greater opportunities down the road. Also, take the time to maintain a work-life balance - take advantage of the incredible environment that surrounds you in DC. Some of my favorite activities out of the office and classroom were night-time runs along the national mall to see the WWII, Korean War, and Lincoln Memorials (without all the tourists), kayaking along the Potomac River in Georgetown, or simply enjoying the tremendously diverse nightlife in the various cultural pockets sprinkled across the District."
"No matter what area of the law interests you, the opportunities in DC are abundant. Be fearless and take advantage of this rare opportunity to network and explore everything DC has to offer."
"People say the key to success is networking -- this is only partially true; the key to success is following up with your contacts."
"While you will most likely be working with some of the top attorneys in your field, don't forget to spend time with the other law students that you end up working with. A lot of the D.C. program's externships attract students from top schools across the country, and you would be surprised how much you can enrich your own experience by collaborating, chatting, or just grabbing a drink with a co-worker."