Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Just Compensation: An Empirical Examination Of The Success Of Legal Externships For Pay And Credit

Carolyn Young Larmore (Chapman; Google Scholar), Just Compensation: An Empirical Examination of the Success of Legal Externships for Pay and Credit, 69 Drake L. Rev. __ (2021):

For-credit externships offer law students a much-needed opportunity to experience the “real world” of legal practice, rounding out their legal education in ways not possible through classroom teaching alone. So when the ABA changed its rules to allow students to be compensated for their externships while still earning school credit, some in legal academia were worried. Would highly attractive paid externships come at the cost of diminished interest in unpaid government and non-profit work? Would the work that paid externs would be assigned be of a lesser educational quality than their for-credit only peers? Conjecture and anecdotal evidence abounded.

This article aims to inject the debate over paid externships with empirical evidence. Drawing on several years’ worth of student and supervisor semester-end evaluations, the author analyzes enrollment patterns, numerical ratings of student performance, and work assignment descriptions to determine whether students who are paid for their externships fare any better or worse than their unpaid counterparts.

The resulting data demonstrate that, first, though there has been a tremendous increase in interest in paid law firm and in-house externships, there has been virtually no decrease in interest in traditional placement types. Moreover, while paying students for their work has had some impact on the type of work performed, it is far less than critics might have predicted. Finally, there are some areas, such as quality of work performed, in which the data show that paid externs are thriving even more than their unpaid peers.

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