2023 CLEA Paid Externship Report Released!

17 Apr 2024 2:55 PM | Madalyn Wasilczuk (Administrator)

A national survey of law schools confirms a significant shift towards allowing students to earn academic credit in paid externship positions. Most surveyed schools reported that they allow pay in at least some of their externship placements. Externship courses allow law students to gain required experiential learning through on-site legal work with a field placement supervisor coupled with an academic component taught at the law school.

In 2016, the American Bar Association (ABA) lifted restrictions on payment of students in credit-bearing externships at accredited law schools.The decision was controversial at the time and was opposed by many legal educators, including CLEA. At that time, schools feared that pay would diminish the educational value of the placements and reduce student interest in public service placements. This survey finds that these fears have not been borne out. Schools with paid externships report positive learning outcomes and no negative impact on their public service programs.

“Today’s law students shoulder significant financial burdens and often do not have family support to fall back on. Law schools and field placements are shifting towards pay to ensure that students who would not be able to work for free have access to these valuable learning experiences,” says Neha Lall, who serves on CLEA’s Board of Directors and co-authored the report.

Key findings:

  • According to CLEA’s survey data, the number of schools allowing compensation has increased from 60 (in 2020) to 81 schools, representing 57% of the 143 schools who responded to the survey. Of the 62 schools that still did not permit compensation at the time of the survey, 19 schools (over 31%) reported that they are considering changing their policy on pay.

  • The disparity in pay policies between higher and lower-ranked schools (under the U.S. News & World Report scale) have narrowed and all but disappeared. Over 56% of law schools in the first, second, and third tiers allow compensation. Schools in tier four are now the least likely to allow pay, with just 52% of responding schools allowing compensation. This is a significant reversal of trends from CLEA’s 2018 survey, when 44% of tier four schools allowed compensation compared to just 13% of their tier one counterparts. 

  • Regional differences in pay policies have grown over the years. Upwards of 71% of law schools on the Pacific West and Northwest coasts allow pay, and upwards of 86% of Southwest and Upper Plains law schools permit compensation. In contrast, 40% or less of schools in the Deep South and South Central regions have adopted pay policies, reflecting little change from 2020. Though the Mid-Atlantic region had the lowest rates of paid externship programs in prior surveys, the number of programs that allow paid externship placements has more than doubled since 2020.

  • Schools are least likely to allow payment from for-profit law firms and for-profit corporations. The growth of paid private sector externships was smaller than for public sector positions. Private sector placements, however, remain the most likely to offer paid positions. Only six schools reported that more than 50% of their externs receive pay, and all of these schools allowed private sector placements. 

About the Survey:  The CLEA Externship Committee completed two prior national surveys on paid externships in 2018 and 2020. In 2023, 143 schools responded to the survey, compared to 148 schools in 2020 and 151 schools in 2018. The 2023 survey was sent to 195 schools, representing a 73% return rate.

The full report is available here.


Terms of ServicePrivacy Policy  |  Site Map  

© 2011 Clinical Legal Education Association 

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software