School of Law 1 Camino Santa MariaSan Antonio, TX78228 +1-210-436-3011 St. Mary's University

Practice Credit Program

The Basics

Practice Credit Program Associate Director Amanda Rivas speaks with students.Two Practice Credit Programs allow law students to earn credit while working at a nonprofit, government agency or select in-house counsel: PCP Independent Study Program and Externship Program. Both programs provide an opportunity for law students (2L or 3L) to earn academic credit for practical work experience and to help students better understand classroom work and the relationship between legal doctrine and practical legal skills.

Students secure an unpaid placement, with a non-profit,  government agency or select in-house counsel  and are required to spend 60 hours per credit hour at the placement (i.e., a three-hour externship will require you to work at the job site for 180 hours during the semester). All placements must have a supervising attorney to assign and evaluate student work.

The curriculum requirements for both programs differ, but the basic requirements include:

  • Completion of time sheets tracking time spent at the job
  • Reflective journals
  • Evaluations by supervising attorneys of student progress during the term

Both programs result in a pass/fail grade.

For more information on this program or to set an appointment to discuss your credit options with these programs, please contact Associate Director Amanda Rivas.

On-campus office hours are held at the Career Services office Mondays 10 a.m. to noon and Thursdays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Practice Credit Program office is located at the Center for Legal and Social Justice, 2507 N.W. 36th Street.

Program Supervisors
Director: Ana M. Novoa
Associate Director: Amanda Rivas

Click to learn more about Externships

Click to learn more about Independent Study

Click to learn more about PCP work sites

View Frequently Asked Questions


Externships

Students interested in the program are responsible for securing an unpaid placement, with a non-profit, government agency or select in-house counsel not on the “approved” list of judicial internships in order to receive credit through the Externship program.

Eligibility and Requirements

  • Student must complete all 1L courses.
  • Student must obtain an unpaid nonprofit or government job where they will be supervised by a licensed attorney.
  • Student must submit a registration and commitment form signed by both student and supervisor.
  • Student must attend classes and meetings as stated in the syllabus: generally, a few classes and individual meetings throughout the semester.
  • Student must submit Reflective Journals throughout the course of their externship. Number of journals required varies by semester.
    • Spring: 10 journal submissions
    • Summer I: 5 journal submissions
    • Summer II: 5 journal submissions
    • Fall: 10 journal submissions
  • Timesheets must be submitted by student. Final timesheet must be submitted with supervisor initials.
  • Student must submit exemplars; two original work products.
  • A check-In conference with the PCP Director, student and supervisor must take place (20 minutes maximum at work site) after the mid-point of the semester.
  • Transfer students must complete the 1L curriculum as required by their original law school.
  • Student must submit two evaluations administered, signed and reviewed with them by their supervisor.

Time Commitment

60 hours per credit hour must be spent working at unpaid placement. For example:

An externship worth three credit hours will require student to work 180 hours during the semester.

Evaluation

All coursework and evaluations are reviewed by the PCP Director to determine the student’s final grade. The Director submits a pass/fail grade for the course after reviewing all coursework and evaluations.

In-house Counsel Externship Program

Our goal for externs in this program include:

  1. A basic competency required for legal practice in a general counsel department, specifically; interpersonal skills, analytical or technical skills, and business culture acclimation.
  2. A basic knowledge of the professional responsibility and ethics owed to your client, opposing parties, colleagues and the court system.
  3. An experience in active learning through consistent feedback, reflection and implementation.

Program Curriculum

  • Attend Mandatory Class and Meetings.
  • Attend IHC Class with Professor Angela Walch (1-2 hours).
  • Attend two check-in meetings with Professor Angela Walch on campus.
  • Complete weekly contemporaneous reflective journals and time sheets.
  • Schedule and complete check-in conference.
  • Seek and implement feedback from formal and informal evaluations (mid-term and final evaluations).
  • Exemplars may be required depending on the placements. Two original work products.
  • Complete all assignments and requirements of the program in a timely manner.
  • Note: This program may only be taken for three credit hours; students are required to extern for a minimum of 180 hours.

Getting Started

  • Before you start, it’s recomended you contact the PCP Associate Director, Amanda Rivas for guidance at arivas@stmarytx.edu or 210-431-5712.
    • All PCP credits must be approved by the PCP Office.
  • Ensure your semester will allow you to work at least 180 hours at the site (13-15 hours per week).
  • Update your resume, prepare a cover letter, prepare a 3-5 page writing sample of your best work.
  • Keep an eye out for in-house counsel postings on Symplicity.

Independent Study

The goal of the program is to provide an opportunity for second- or third-year law students to earn academic credit for legal doctrine experience and to help students better understand classroom work and the relationship between classroom work and work experiences. In addition, the independent study allows participants to develop personal contacts that may lead to job placement opportunities and build self-confidence, leadership, communication and self-assessment skills while working with others. Students interested in the program are responsible for securing an unpaid placement, with a non-profit or government agency, not on the “approved” list of judicial internships in order to receive credit through the Independent Study structure.

Eligibility

  • Student must complete all 1L courses in order to participate
  • Transfer students must complete the 1L curriculum required by their original law school
  • Student must obtain an unpaid nonprofit or government job where they will be supervised by a licensed attorney

Requirements

  • Student must submit a registration form signed by both student and supervisor after meeting with their faculty sponsor.
  • A faculty sponsor must approve student independent study and Independent Study Form.
  • Student must submit Reflective Journals throughout the course of their internship.Number of journal submissions required varies by semester.
    • Spring: 10 journal submissions
    • Summer I: 5 journal submissions
    • Summer II: 5 journal submissions
    • Fall: 10 journal submissions
  • Student must submit weekly timesheets. Final timesheets must be submitted with supervisor initials and total number of hours completed.
  • Student must submit their final evaluation, administered and signed by their supervisor.

Time Commitment

  • 60 hours per credit hour must be spent working at unpaid placement
  • Up to two credit hours (120 work hours) may be earned through independent study

Student Checklist

Before Registration

  • Find a government or nonprofit office (“the placement”) that will sponsor you for 60 hours (1 credit hour) or 120 hours (2 credit hours) of unpaid work. The required hours of work per semester depends on the credit hours you desire.
  • Find a supervising attorney within your placement that will supervise your work and sign the Practice Credit Program Independent Study Form.
  • Find a faculty member that will be your adviser for that placement. This faculty member must approve the Practice Credit Program Independent Study Form, including the placement goal on that form. Placement Goals should ensure you will perform legal duties such as research and analysis and that you will have shadowing or other observation opportunities.
  • Complete the Practice Credit Program Independent Study Form with your signature and that of the supervising attorney and faculty member.

During Registration

  • Submit your completed Practice Credit Program Independent Study Form to Amanda Rivas for approval.

During the Independent Study Semester

  • Complete and send weekly journal entries that reflect on your independent study work to the Associate Director. A minimum of 10 entries are required for Fall/Spring and 5 entries for Summer sessions.
  • Complete and send time records for the amount of time spent on your independent study during the semester to the Associate Director. Remember your minimum time requirements depend on your desired credit hours. [60 hours (1 credit) or 120 hours (2 credits)]

Before Credit Can Be Given You Must

      • Submit a minimum of 10 weekly journals (5 weekly journals in summer sessions) to the Associate Director.
      • Submit time records to the Associate Director for the amount of hours corresponding with the credit requested.
      • Provide an evaluation form to your supervising attorney. They will submit it to the Associate Director.
      • Complete and send a written evaluation of your independent study experience to the Associate Director.
      • Complete other assignments, if any, assigned by the faculty member.

Examples of PCP work sites

Programs:

            • Bexar County Civil District Courts Staff Attorney
            • Collin County District Attorney
            • Department of Veteran Affairs
            • Judge Advocate General’s Office
            • Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
            • Office of the Attorney General, Child Support
            • Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection
            • Railroad Commission
            • RAICES Inc. (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, Inc.)
            • Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
            • United States Equal Employment Opportunity
            • United States Customs and Immigration Services

In-house Counsel Approved locations:

          • Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union
          • Acelity

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the programs and what is the difference between them?
Do I have to find my externship placement myself?
Do I need to have my placement approved?
Where are some places that have been externships in the past?
Does the placement have to be a nonprofit or government agency?
What is the In-house Counsel Externship Program?
Can I enroll in a Practice Credit Program as a 1L?
How and when should I register for a Practice Credit Program?
Do I need a faculty sponsor for the externship course?
Is it possible to complete the externship program outside of San Antonio?
Can we get a letter grade for our externship?
Is class attendance required for the externship? When and where are the externship classes?
May I be paid for my work?
How many hours must I complete for the course?
Can I do more than one Practice Credit Program?
What are the course requirements?
Can I complete my writing requirement with any of the Practice Credit Programs?
What if I have a question or concern?

Q: What are the programs and what is the difference between them?
The law school is offering two programs to give students more flexibility and to utilize more faculty resources. The Independent Study Program requires students to find a faculty sponsor as well as a placement. The placement for this program may be outside of San Antonio as long as the faculty sponsor approves. It will require some evaluations and reflections, depending on the agreement among the placement, faculty sponsor, and our program. This course is one or two credits for a pass/fail grade. The Externship Program requires students to find a placement in the San Antonio area. The PCP Director will be the faculty sponsor for all externs. This program requires attending a classes/meetings, structured reflections, an exemplar portfolio of your work product, a check-in conference, and evaluations. This course can be up to three credits for a pass/fail grade. Both programs require students to be supervised by an attorney at the placement. Students will need to work a minimum of 60 hours for each credit hour desired.

Q: Do I have to find my externship placement myself?
Yes, you will need to have a job offer for both the externship and independent study course. The Office of Career Services can help you start on the job search.

Q: Do I need to have my placement approved?
Yes, the placement will need to be approved before final enrollment in either course. You will need to contact Associate Director Amanda Rivas (arivas@stmarytx.edu) once you have a job offer and are considering one of the Practice Credit Programs.

Q: Where are some places that have been externships in the past?
A few of our participants from our pilot program are: Attorney General’s Child Support Division and Consumer Protection Division, Mexican American Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Railroad Commission, Office of General Counsel for the Governor, Catholic Charities Immigration Services, and United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Q: Does the placement have to be a nonprofit or government agency?
Generally, yes. Only nonprofit and government agencies will qualify for both Practice Credit Programs. You will not be eligible for either Practice Credit Programs (externship or independent study) if your job offer is from a private firm. Select corporate placements are vetted and approved for in-house counsel externships. If you have any questions about whether your job offer would qualify, please contact Associate Director Amanda Rivas (arivas@stmarytx.edu).

Q: What is the In-house Counsel Externship Program??
Students are able to extern at a pre-approved corporation site. Students are required to complete the same requirements as the Externship Program in addition to the In-House Counsel class with Professor Angela Walch. For more information, contact Associate Director Amanda Rivas at arivas@stmarytx.edu.

Q: Can I enroll in a Practice Credit Program as a 1L?
No. Only 2Ls and 3Ls are eligible to enroll in Practice Credit programs. 1L evening students in their last semester do not qualify for these programs.

Q: How and when should I register for a Practice Credit Program?
Once you have a job offer, contact Associate Director Amanda Rivas (arivas@stmarytx.edu ) to ensure the placement meets the criteria for the Practice Credit Programs. If you choose to do an independent study, then you will need to find a faculty sponsor to approve and supervise your coursework. An externship does not require a faculty sponsor. You will need to discuss the program with your supervising attorney. If you both agree to the expectations of the program, then you will sign and submit a registration form to the Associate Director. In addition, the externship program requires you both sign and submit a commitment form.

Q: Do I need a faculty sponsor for the externship course?
No. A faculty sponsor is only required for the independent study course. Your faculty support during the externship course will be the PCP Director and Associate Director.

Q: Is it possible to complete the externship program outside of San Antonio?
No. The externship program is generally limited to the San Antonio area. A few exceptions are made to other regions in Texas when acomodations can be arrainged. The program requires close enough proximity to allow for direct meetings among students, placement supervisor and the faculty member. The Independent Study placement can be outside the San Antonio area if approved by the faculty sponsor.

Q: Can we get a letter grade for our externship?
No. Currently, both the externship and the independent study programs are pass/fail. Professor Novoa (externship) or your faculty sponsor (independent study) is charged with evaluating your work and assigning your pass/fail grade.

Q: Is class attendance required for the externship? When and where are the externship classes?
Yes, class attendance is required. Classes and Meetings for the externship program are scheduled each semester in conjunction with the student’s schedule. There is no class component for the Independent Study program.

Q: May I be paid for my work?
No. Receiving payment for your work at the placement site will render you ineligible for the Practice Credit Programs. However, receiving reasonable compensation/reimburse for expenses incurred because of the placement, i.e. parking fees, mileage, will not disqualify you from the program.

Q: How many hours must I complete for the course?
You will have to work 60 hours at your placement for each credit hour you desire. Therefore, if you want three (3) credits for the externship, then you will have to work 180 hours at your placement site. You will record and submit time sheets regularly to the Associate Director in order to meet the course requirement.

Q: Can I do more than one Practice Credit Program?
Yes. However, you are limited by the 8 hour pass/fail limit stated in the student handbook. Please contact the Associate Director as soon as possible to discuss further details.

Q: What are the course requirements?
Depending on whether you do the Independent Study or the Externship, your course requirements will be different. Generally, you must complete the time requirements (60 hours for each credit hour), submit all assignments, complete and submit all required evaluations. Requirements that differentiate the externship from the independent study include, attending mandatory classes and meetings, completing a check-in conference, producing an exemplars portfolio, and completing an additional evaluation.

Q: Can I complete my writing requirement with any of the Practice Credit Programs?
No, both Practice Credit Programs—Independent Study and Externship—are not approved by the faculty as a course in which the writing requirement can be met.

Q: What if I have a question, concern, or special need?
Contact Associate Director Amanda Rivas (arivas@stmarytx.edu). Her office located at the Center for Legal and Social Justice. Office phone: 431-5712. Fax: 431-5700.

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