Semester In Practice

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most in law school is the prospect of spending an entire semester externing at a government office in Washington D.C. through BU Law’s Semester-in-Practice (SiP) program. The purpose of this blog is to explain how to go about securing an awesome SiP placement. (Caveat: I’m still in the process of applying!)

capitol

STEP 1: Create your placement wish list. (Seriously, shoot for the stars!)

Last spring I met with Professor Kealy, faculty supervisor for the Government Lawyering in D.C. Program. He walked me through the application process and suggested all manner of potential D.C. placements—from the Departments of Justice and Education to various House and Senate policy Committees. I quickly realized that my dream placement involved an externship in Congress, preferably with one of my Senators or Representatives from Washington State. As it happens, Senator Patty Murray—one of my heroes—is the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).

HELP symbol

In addition to the HELP Committee (my top choice), I drew up a short list of other committees and departments.

STEP 2: Apply to your externship site. Be polite, professional, and persistent!

One important piece of advice that I was given was to apply to one office at a time, beginning with your top choice. You don’t want to be offered a position with your second choice placement before you hear back from your dream office!

The downside of applying office-by-office is that you need to leave plenty of time for the application process. I also wanted to give myself ample time to correspond with the HELP Committee staff because, well, they were dealing with important issues such as the fate of the ACA.

After submitting my application in May, I followed up with a phone call to make sure it had been received. Sure enough, my application was scheduled for later review because the office was only evaluating applications for the fall. Once I explained my deadline, the staff was extremely accommodating and communicative. In short, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself!

After two rounds of interviews, I was offered a Law Clerk position with HELP’s Minority Office. The entire process—between submitting my application and receiving the offer—took over two months.

STEP 3: Apply internally to BU’s SiP Program.

Once you secure your placement, the next step is to apply to BU’s SiP program. Again, this process can be time-intensive, so start early. (As an aside, be sure to check with the Registrar to make sure you’ve fulfilled all of your other graduation requirements. You do not want to be denied a placement your last semester because an overlooked requirement slipped through the cracks!)

BU’s internal application is quite involved. Here are the requirements:

  • Set concrete goals and create an action plan for how to accomplish them
  • Create a reading syllabus for your entire semester away
  • Obtain your site supervisor and faculty supervisor’s signatures acknowledging their responsibilities as part of the SiP program
  • Submit a resume, transcript, and statement of purpose along with the above materials.

As for me, I’m nearly there! I have everything ready to go but my reading syllabus, a work in progress.

STEP 4: SUBMIT!

Once my application is complete, a committee of three faculty members will review it and get back to me with their final decision. Fingers crossed!
If you have any other questions, I recommend reaching out to Adrienne Smith, Associate Director of BU’s Clinical and Trial Programs.

I’ll be sure to let you know how things turn out. 🙂

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