Bond University

Article Title

Field Placement (Externship) - A Valuable Application of Clinical Education?


[Extract] The three primary models of clinical legal education can be readily distinguished. In-house programs involve live-client contact as well as supervision by a full-time member of Faculty; the same program may also be situated off-campus. Simulation programs are free of live-client case work. Field placements (or externships) may have live-client work, but primary responsibility for supervision rests with persons other than full-time Faculty. Externships permit more students the opportunity of having clinical experiences than do in-house clinics, where costs and the very nature of the educational experience place severe limitations on the numbers of students permitted to enroll. Externships have thus been hailed as the one form of clinical experience potentially available to all students. Their detractors however, are legion: “If there is a conventional wisdom about [externships], it is that schools that are serious about clinical education should not operate such programs. Although in-house programs are invariably criticised for their high establishment and running costs, and simulation programs are viewed as “inferior” because of their want of intense dynamic exposure, externships are cursorily dismissed for the perceived dearth of a worthwhile educational experience. Lack of planning, lack of Faculty involvement and lack of adequate supervision are focussed on as the primary shortcomings of these “farm-out” programs, as they are derisively labeled. As has been recognised by more than one commentator: One danger of out-of-house placements is that our students may be exposed to poor lawyering, that this behaviour might serve as a model for them, and that they might come away from the experience with serious misconceptions about their professional roles and work. To give credit for such an experience would be ludicrous.

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