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89 UMKC L. Rev. 583 (2020-2021)
The Foundations for (Private) Practice: Building Professional Identity through Law Firm Externships

handle is hein.journals/umkc89 and id is 603 raw text is: THE FOUNDATIONS FOR (PRIVATE) PRACTICE:
Kristen Uhl Hulse*
The economic realities and countless other challenges caused by the global
coronavirus pandemic are changing the nature of law practice, the types of legal
opportunities available, and employer expectations for the next generation of
lawyers. How can legal educators prepare law students to practice in this evolving
landscape of client needs and market pressures?
We can start with experiential education, now more prominent due to calls for
legal education to better align with the skills and values required for competent
and ethical practice. One category of experiential education, the legal externship,
introduces students to many dimensions of effective lawyering while providing
real-time exposure to current practice realities. Extemship structure and pedagogy
- featuring two supervisors (field and faculty), student goal-setting, and guided
reflection to deepen field learning - promote student self-awareness and a more
informed professional identity. Immersing students in a practice setting while the
profession undergoes transformation can positively affect the skills and
competencies students develop for a nimble, client-centric practice.
Second, we can extend the benefits of the supportive externship framework to
students working in law firms - the client-focused setting in which most law
graduates begin their careers.' While this will likely require curricular expansion
(and potentially a shift in programmatic priorities),2 current circumstances provide
* Assistant Professor of the Practice, University of Denver Sturm College of Law. I am grateful to
University of Denver law students Meghan Johnson and Elif Gabb for their research and technical
assistance. In addition, I thank Professors Courtney Brooks, Meg Reuter, Marjorie Silver, and Eli
Wald, for their thoughtful guidance through the writing and editing process.
' The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) collects employment data from each
graduating law school class. 54.8 percent of the responding graduates in the Class of 2018 (the latest
class for which data is available) reported post-graduate employment in law firms. Class of 2018
National        Summary          Report,        NALP          (July        2019),
https://www.nalp.org/uploads/NationalSummaryReportClassof2018_FINAL.pdf [hereinafter Class
of 2018 Report]. This is similar to 2017, when 54.4 percent of the responding graduates reported law
firm  employment. Class of 2017 National Summary Report, NALP      (August 2018),
https://www.nalp.org/uploads/Classof2Ol 7_ NationalSummaryReport.pdf [hereinafter Class of 2017
Report]. Even as the country recovered from the Great Recession of 2008, 50.9 percent of the class
of 2010 and 49.5 percent of the class of 2011 still joined law firms. Class of 2010 National Summary
Report,                   NALP                     (June                   2011),
https://www.nalp.org/uploads/NationalSummaryChartforSchools20l0.pdf and Class of 2011
National        Summary          Report,        NALP          (July        2012),
https://www.nalp.org/uploads/NatlSummChart_Classof201l.pdf [hereinafter Class of 2010 Report].
2 Per a recent nationwide survey of externship faculty, most law schools exclude law firm placements
from credit-bearing opportunities. See CENTERFOR THE STUDY OF APPLIED LEGAL EDUCATION, ET AL.,
THE 2016-17 SURVEY OF APPLIED LEGAL EDUCATION (2017) [hereinafter CSALE 2016-

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