Mentoring & Supervising Students

Mentoring Students

Field supervisors must meet with their externship student regularly to provide them with mentoring and general supervision.  An essential role of the field supervisor is to mentor the student by sharing their experience with the student, helping the student succeed in the field office, building the student's confidence in their lawyering skills, fostering a safe environment for learning, and giving advice to the student.  The field supervisor must also provide general supervision of the student, including evaluating the student’s recent performance of lawyering tasks, providing specific feedback to the student about such performance, developing the concepts underlying the professional skills being performed, discussing the activities of the sponsoring organization, and answering the student’s questions about the organization, assignments or cases. 

Designing the Externship Experience

Field supervisors must provide their student with a rigorous experience that is educational in nature and is reasonably similar to the experience of a lawyer advising or representing a client or engaging in other lawyering tasks in the field office. The experience should be based on the student’s stated learning goals and must include opportunities for the student to:


  1. Integrate doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics;

  2. Engage in the performance of one or more professional skills on multiple occasions, one of which is producing original written work product; and

  3. Engage in self-evaluation.​

Training Students

​Field supervisors should ensure that their student has been given sufficient training so that the student can competently perform assigned work.   Such training should include (but is not limited to) an initial orientation meeting to provide an overview of the sponsoring organization and its mission, the general legal issues typically before it, guidelines and resources for performing legal assignments, and office policy and procedures. 

Monitoring Assignments

Field supervisors must monitor the quality and quantity of work assigned to their student to ensure:

  1. Assignments are representative of legal work typically done in the organization by lawyers;

  2. Assignments are as varied as conditions allow;

  3. The student has sufficient legal research and writing, but is also permitted to observe matters that the student may not be able to participate in directly;

  4. Assignments are appropriately challenging and reasonable in terms of the student’s hourly commitment; and

  5. Clerical tasks (filing, photocopying, answering telephones, etc.) are kept to a minimum.

American Bar Association Standards for Field Placement Courses


The ABA accreditation standards governing externship courses includes specifics about the externship experience which field supervisors must adhere to and externship professors are required to monitor and ensure.  (ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, Rules 303(a)(3) and 304(c).)  A summary of these requirements includes the following:


  • Provide an experience which is reasonably similar to the experience of a lawyer advising or representing a client or engaging in other lawyering tasks in the field office. 

  • Engage the extern in, and directly supervise, multiple opportunities for performance of lawyering skills.

  • Provide to the extern regular and specific feedback about their performance.

  • Develop the concepts underlying the lawyering skills being taught in the field office and integrate doctrine, theory, skills, and legal ethics in the instruction of the extern.

  • Facilitate student self-evaluation.* 


*At UDSL, the coursework which accompanies a student's field work provides opportunities for the externship professor to teach and facilitate student self-evaluation and critical reflection of their learning in their field office.  To support these important skills, field supervisors are asked to encourage their extern’s self-evaluation and critical reflection whenever possible.

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Denise Platfoot Lacey

Professor of Externships

University of Dayton School of Law

300 College Park

Dayton, Ohio 45469-2772


Click here to email Professor Platfoot Lacey

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