Federal Judicial Externship Program

The Federal Judicial Externship Course is an academic program that combines an 8-week judicial writing class with hands-on fieldwork in the chambers of a federal circuit, district, magistrate, or bankruptcy judge, working directly with the judge and judicial law clerks.

Over the course of the semester, students work in their placement a minimum of 120 hours (for two credits) and concurrently participate in an 8-week seminar for one additional credit. The course is offered every fall and spring semester. A mandatory information session describing the course and the application and selection process is held each October and March for the upcoming semester.

For the Judicial Clerkship Class of 2024, we had 24 graduates secure 26 clerkships.

Program Overview

Students participating in externships

The Federal Judicial Externship Course allows students to work in chambers of a federal judge for a semester for academic credit. Along with an 8 -week companion course seminar (75 minute classes), the externships deliver invaluable learning experiences for students, providing a window into the federal judicial process, from the judicial perspective, as well as focused real-world experience in honing legal research, analysis and writing skills. The seminar course is “front-loaded,” to teach externs the types of motions, briefing and orders they will encounter in chambers, and includes academic inquiry through readings and journal writing. Externs work under close supervision and receive regular feedback from the judge, judicial law clerks, and the law school faculty supervisor, and engage in self-reflection and assessment. Both the work in chambers and the class are graded Credit/No Credit, and there is no final examination. The two credits earned for work in chambers count as two of the permitted six hours of academic credit that can be earned through externships.

During the mandatory 8-week seminar course, co-taught by a federal district judge and SMU Dedman Law professor, students will work on skills to maximize the learning outcomes for their externships. Topics include: Introduction and Orientation to The Role of the Law Clerk/Extern in Chambers, Research and Writing for the Judicial Extern, Confidentiality, Conflicts and Other Ethical Issues in the Courtroom, Common Legal Issues Externs Will Address in Chambers, and the Role of Federal Courts and Federal Judges. 

Placement Opportunities

Approximately 24 federal judges in the United States Courts for the Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas, located in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Sherman, and Tyler. participate in the course each semester. Interested students attend an information session on the course and the application and selection process the semester before they hope to participate in the course. Students choose to which judges they apply (and are encouraged to numerous judges) and the judges select their own externs from those who apply to their chambers. Participating judges have included: Judge Catharina Haynes, 5th Circuit; from the Northern District: District Judges Barbara Lynn, Sam Lindsay, Jane Boyle, Reed O’Connor, Brantley Starr, Ada Brown, and Senior Judges Joe Fish, Sidney Fitzwater, Terry Means, Magistrate Judges Rebecca Rutherford, Irma Ramirez, Renee Toliver, David Horan, and Hal R. Ray, and Chief Bankruptcy Judge Stacey Jernigan, and Bankruptcy Judges Mark Mullin, Lee Morris, Michelle Larson, and Scott Everett; and from the Eastern District, District Judges Amos Mazzant, Sean Jordan, and Jeremy Kernodle and Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson, and Chief Bankruptcy Judge Brenda Rhoades.

For More Information

Watch for announcements of the information sessions that occur in October and March for the upcoming semesters in the “This Week at SMU Dedman Law” emails. For other questions, contact Mary Beth Nielsen, Director of Judicial Internships, Externships and Post-Graduate Clerkships at mnielsen@smu.edu .