Corporate Counsel Externship Program

The Corporate Counsel Externship Program is an innovative academic program that integrates a corporate counsel class with externships in corporate legal departments in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  

Over the course of the fall semester, students complete a minimum of 120 hours working in corporate legal departments (approximately 10 hours per week) while also taking a weekly corporate counsel class that explores substantive areas of the law as as well as practical skills like working with outside counsel and conducting an internal investigation.

Academic Goals
Students learn about substantive issues in-house counsel face, including intellectual property, employment law, securities filings, commercial contracts and corporate governance.  They learn through classroom instruction, by working on real-world legal projects and by observing lawyers dealing with these legal issues in context.

Students develop their professional skills, including legal analysis and reasoning, contract drafting, problem solving, communication, teamwork, negotiation, and fact finding. Externs shadow attorneys, watching how they conduct themselves in meetings, communicate with outside counsel and opposing counsel, and interact with their internal "clients."  Seasoned in-house practitioners also train students in the exercise of these skills, supervise their progress, and critique their development.  By virtue of working in a corporate legal department, students will also develop more of an understanding of workplace issues such as time management, workplace culture, professionalism, and giving and receiving feedback.

Our externship program is a first-of-its kind and demonstrates SMU Dedman Law’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its already rich business law curriculum with hands-on learning experiences for our students.  SMU is on the cutting edge when it comes to educating law students about the in-house practice of law.

The Corporate Counsel Externship Program is in its sixth year and this year 90 students will work in 90 corporate legal departments. The 2017-2018 corporate sponsors were:


Marc Steinberg, the Rupert and Lillian Radford Professor of Law, serves as the Director of the program. Stephen Yeager, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and a former general counsel, is the Faculty Supervisor, overseeing the externs' work and serving as the liaison with corporate legal departments.

Camille Eslick
Real Page, Inc.
"The Corporate Counsel Externship Program used the classroom and externship components to teach me what the life of a corporate lawyer can be like and how corporate legal departments operate.  One without the other could teach valuable information, but together they transform the experience from isolated into comprehensive.

Attorneys I worked with took time out of their days to sit down with me and discuss the projects, background and even how the projects correspond to my individual interests.  As a result, I learned how particular legal issues relating to litigation, contracts, or internal operations arise; how to address them; and best practices to resolve them."

If your company is interested in hosting an extern through the program in Fall 2016, please contact Steve Yeager, Faculty Supervisor, at SYEAGER@SMU.EDU or (214) 768-4178.