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Sunday, February 16, 2014

ABA Recommends Dropping Prohibition on Paying Student Externs

From Karen Sloan at the National Law Journal:

An American Bar Association panel has recommended the organization drop its prohibition against law students receiving both academic credit and money for internships and externships. 
The ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar still must approve the idea, but it would represent a significant departure from existing rules that forbid students from receiving monetary payment for field placements.
. . .
The ABA’s Law Student Division has been lobbying for the rule change, enlisting support from student bar associations around the country. The division argued in a letter to the committee that changing economic realities no longer allow students to pass up opportunities to be paid for their work. 
In a survey of students, 95 percent said they would be better encouraged to pursue externships if they could be paid and receive academic credit.
I did not realize that this prohibition existed, and I think that it is an odd restriction to have in place. But I am not sure about whether a lack of payment is a significant hindrance to students who are interested in externships. Externships allow students the opportunity to work in the real world and obtain practical experience and potential connections for future employment. Additionally, externships give students the opportunity to earn academic credit while escaping the homework and exams of traditional academic coursework. Many students I know have jumped at this opportunity, even without the prospects of payment. After all, they are already spending the money to get the academic credit, and an externship does not cost more.

Admittedly, allowing paid externships would probably encourage more students to take this approach. But with many students already using externships to get out of the classroom and obtain practical experience, I wonder whether more externship encouragement is necessary.

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