SMU Dedman School of Law's Corporate Counsel Externship Program Turns Ten!

When Dean Stephen B. Yeager joined SMU Dedman Law in the summer of 2009, he believed an in-house counsel course made perfect sense for SMU Dedman School of Law. According to Yeager, “Business law has long been a curricular strength of the law school, many corporations make their homes here, and our students are interested in working in-house at some point in their careers.” He created an upper-level class called “The Role of the General Counsel,” which proved very popular.

As a result of teaching the class, however, he realized that the in-house world was virtually unknown to law students. In addition to teaching them about legal and ethical issues facing inside counsel, he wanted to give them a glimpse of what in-house lawyers actually do. And he found a partner in his mission—Marc I. Steinberg, the Rupert and Lillian Radford Chair in Law and Professor of Law. Together, they designed an academic program combining the corporate counsel class with externships in corporate legal departments. They also authored a nationally-adopted textbook for the class, Inside Counsel – Practices, Strategies and Insights (West 2d ed. 2020) and are currently working on the third edition. Professor Steinberg serves as the Director of the Program and Dean Yeager is the Faculty Supervisor.

The Corporate Counsel Externship Program was born in fall 2013 with 30 companies hosting students. This fall marks the tenth year of the program, which has been a resounding success. It is the premier program of its kind in the nation and the largest, with over 100 different companies participating. The program now falls under the Robert B. Rowling Center for Business Law & Leadership. One of the secrets to the program’s success is that students may tailor their experiences. Students are placed with companies, industries, and practice areas in which they have an interest.

The program puts students in realā€life situations where they have educational opportunities unobtainable in a classroom setting. Many students have landed in-house jobs through the externship program. Over 700 law students have been placed in the program in the last ten years.

Steinberg and Yeager are passionate about teaching law students about the in-house practice of law. As Yeager says, “It has been an absolute joy to look back at the last ten years and retrace our students' incredible learning experiences. There is a whirlwind of synergies when a law school works closely with companies for the benefit of law students. If properly structured and supervised, experiential learning in corporate legal departments supplemented by classroom learning provides law students with an incredibly valuable educational experience.”

 

The First Extern Class: Where Are They Now?

Of the 30 students who externed in the inaugural class in Fall 2013, 9 are currently working in corporations.