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In the summer of 2010, Mary Jo Eyster and Marjorie Silver conversed, via email, about the ways in which externship programs add unique value to the student’s education, separate and apart from their cost-effectiveness as compared to the in-house clinic. The result is this paper, a dialogue between a stand-up teacher who chose to teach the externship seminar and a seasoned clinician.

Mary Jo and Marjorie agree that the well-designed, well-executed program should drive the design, teaching and administration of externships and their accompanying seminars. They share the goals that each of them privilege in the programs they have designed, and explore the challenges and opportunities presented by placing students in real law offices, both public and private. They discuss how they help students negotiate the balance between work and life, and expose them to alternative career choices so that their students may find careers congruent with their core values. They explore how externships provide unparalleled opportunities for students to set their own learning goals and priorities, as well as opportunities to learn to work successfully with different, sometimes challenging, personalities. Above all, they explore how the well-designed externship program supports students in becoming self-reflective, self-correcting learners and practitioners. They agree that students benefit most by having multiple and varied experiential learning opportunities that include externships, in-house clinics, as well as the hybrid forms that have emerged in recent years. Each of these offers important learning opportunities in the transformation of law students into independent practitioners. And while the realities are such that externships will remain the most cost-effective method for providing authentic practical experience within the curriculum, what they offer is so much more than just less expensive alternatives to these other models.

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