Prosecution Externship Program
The public prosecutor has played a unique and crucial role throughout American history. Traditionally, public interest-minded attorneys fresh out of law school have started their legal careers as prosecuting attorneys. Although most of those new prosecutors have been provided a theoretical background in criminal law and procedure, they often have little training in the role of the prosecutor and in the practical aspects of prosecuting a criminal matter.
The prosecutor ensures that both justice and the rule of law prevail.
The Prosecution Externship Program combines both classroom and field-based components designed to prepare law students for careers as prosecutors. In the classroom, law students study the substantive and procedural legal principles that a prosecutor needs to know, and gain hands-on experience from practical exercises. Professionalism and ethical concerns are emphasized. In the field, students gain practical experience through placement as externs with local, state, and federal prosecuting offices, and with state and national prosecution-related agencies.
The placement of students as externs with prosecutor offices is an integral component of the Prosecution Externship Program. Prosecution externs are sworn in as limited practice student-attorneys. Through such placements the students gain hands-on experience by participating in the preparation and prosecution of criminal cases.
The externship placement is graded on a Z (pass/fail) basis. The Prosecution Function (Law 685) class is a pre- or co-requisite for being placed as a prosecution extern in the fall or spring semesters. Students placed as prosecution externs in the summer terms should take the course the previous spring semester. In certain circumstances an extern placed in the summer with a prosecutor’s office may take the Prosecution Function class the immediately subsequent fall semester. Students placed during the academic year must enroll in the Prosecution Function class the same semester as their placement in a prosecutor’s office. If their placement is in an office away from Oxford, the student needs to enroll in the Prosecution Function class the semester before their placement.
Placements can be with local, state, or federal prosecution offices in any jurisdiction where a student meets such jurisdiction’s limited practice act. A student interested in a particular office should see Professor Sinha for further details.
Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure are pre or co-requisites. Evidence is highly recommended. The externship placement is open to 3L students who have completed two-thirds of the required number of credit hours for graduation, and who are in academic good standing.
The academic requirements for a prosecution extern include preparing a placement plan, maintaining a daily activity report, writing short essays on topics pertaining to the role of the prosecutor, as well as keeping a contemporaneous journal reflecting upon such work. Prosecution externs also meet as a group with Professor Sinha on a regular basis during the semester and or summer term of their placement. Students placed away from Oxford participate in these meetings via the internet (currently gotomeeting.com). These requirements will be further addressed upon acceptance into the program. All requirements must be met in order for credit to be granted for the externship placement.
The number of credit hours a student can earn through the extern placement depends upon the number of hours the student selects to work at his or her placement. With the exception of students doing their externship placement with a United States Attorney office, students can select between three and six credit hours. Placement with a United States Attorney’s office, requires six credit hours. Based on a 14 week semester, the credit and corresponding on-site hours is as follows:
- 6 credit hours. 20 hours per week. 280 hours for the semester.
- 5 credit hours. 16 hour per week. 224 hours for the semester.
- 4 credit hours. 14 hours per week. 196 hours for the semester.
- 3 credit hours. 10 hours per week. 140 hours for the semester.
Students wishing to extern with a United States Attorney’s office need to complete a Department of Justice application and successfully complete an FBI background check. Please note that credit trouble, tax issues and arrests will raise flags during the background check, and may result in a denial of security clearance. Students with such concerns should consult with Professor Sinha. Once a student submits an application for placement as a prosecution extern with a United States Attorney’s office, he or she commits to completing 280 on-site hours for six credit hours.
Students placed as prosecution externs during the summer term operate under the same guidelines as during the school year with some adjustments. The standard length for a summer placement corresponds to the eight week summer school session. Summer externs are not bound to do their externship on the same dates as the law school summer session.
Positions with local prosecutor offices generally fill up fairly quickly. Every effort is made to meet a student’s preference. At times alternate assignments will be made.
Students interested in participating in the prosecution externship program need to complete the attached application packet. Registration for the externship placement is through regular class registration and permission from Professor Sinha.
Applications should be submitted as early as possible. Placements are made on a rolling basis. The sooner you turn in your application, the better your chances of getting your first placement choice. It is not unusual for student to submit applications for a placement the following year or even further ahead in time.
If you have a specific placement in mind away from the general vicinity of Oxford, Mississippi, please contact Professor Sinha as soon as possible.
Please review the applicable Limited Practice Rules to ensure that you meet all the requirements. You can find Mississippi’s “Law Student Limited Practice Act” in the Mississippi Code, Title 73, Chapter 3, sections 201-211. If you are seeking placement in a different jurisdiction, please locate and review such jurisdiction’s equivalent limited practice act (many times called Student Limited Practice) in order to ensure that you meet all requirements.
All students interested in being placed as a prosecution extern should also review the Prosecutorial Externship Program – Informational Manual which is on reserve in the library and available on line. It can be accessed through the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law website (Prosecutorial Externship Program – Informational Manual).