Government and Public Interest Externship Program

The Government and Public Interest Externship Program is an academic program that combines a weekly public sector law class with hands-on fieldwork in nonprofit and government legal departments.

Over the course of the semester, students work in their placement a minimum of 120 hours (for two credits) or 180 hours (for three credits) and concurrently participate in a weekly seminar for one additional credit. The course is offered year-round - fall, spring, and summer semesters.

Program Overview:

The SMU Government and Public Interest Externship Program allows students to work for a semester at a government or nonprofit organization for academic credit. In combination with the weekly companion course seminar, externships provide invaluable learning experiences for the students, combining substantial, practical legal work with academic inquiry through readings, journal writing, and guided reflection papers. Externs work under close supervision and receive regular feedback from both the field supervisor at the host organization and the law school faculty supervisor, and engage in self-reflection and assessment.

Through the one-hour externship companion course, students will work on skills to maximize the learning outcomes for their externships. Some of the weekly topics include goal setting, learning through reflection and supervision, ethics, professional skills, understanding roles and responsibilities, and critical self-assessment. Government and Public Interest attorneys will guest lecture in some of the classes, adding yet another opportunity for students to learn from, and interface with, public sector lawyering.

Students participating in the Government and Public Interest Externship in the fall and spring semesters can choose from a myriad of placements in in local agencies within Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, Denton, and Rockwall counties and will attend the weekly companion course seminar. Students participating in the summer semester take the the companion course during the first week of May term and have the opportunity to gain experience working in agencies around the globe throughout the remainder of the summer. 

Placement Opportunities:

To learn more about these externship placements and the application process for each organization, email Laura Burstein.

Students who have been selected for a field placement within the Government & Public Interest Externship program must register for the externship and the class. Please fill out the appropriate form (Summer Registration Form - or - Fall/Spring Registration Form) and meet with Ms. Burstein before taking the form to the Registrar’s office.

If your organization is interested in hosting an extern through the program, please contact Laura Burstein, Faculty Supervisor at or (214) 768-2567.