The Wisconsin Department of Justice Extern Program offers a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in civil litigation and public advocacy at the Department of Justice or the Department of Natural Resources. Students will practice civil trial, appellate, and administrative law with some of the most well-respected litigators in Wisconsin, working on issues and cases of statewide importance.
The Extern Program offers participants practical and marketable experience in the day-to-day practice of law, from the administrative level through to the appellate level. Externs hone research, writing, pleading, briefing, negotiating, trial and advocacy skills under the supervision of state attorneys at the Department of Justice (the Attorney General's Office) or the Department of Natural Resources. Externs develop advanced skills in all facets of administrative, trial and appellate legal work, from problem solving, legal analysis, factual investigation, communication, and litigation strategy, to organization and management of legal work and public advocacy. Externs work on issues and develop the law in areas of statewide importance.
Externs work in civil rights, environmental protection, employment, government operations, administrative law, bankruptcy, contracts, property, constitutional law, personal injury and medical malpractice--at the administrative, trial and appellate levels. Externs work in one of seven units of the Wisconsin Department of Justice—Civil Litigation/Employment, Criminal Litigation, Criminal Appeals, SPAR (State Programs, Administration and Revenue), Environmental Protection, Consumer Protection/Antitrust, and Medicaid Fraud Control and Elder Abuse, or in one of four units of the Department of Natural Resources.
The assistant attorneys general in the DOJ units are charged under state law with representing the state, in all courts, state and federal, trial and appellate, as both plaintiff and defendant. The DNR attorneys appear in administrative hearings concerning permitting and regulation, and develop administrative rules and policies, in the areas of forestry, endangered resources, watershed management, air pollution, resource management and environmental protection. Attorneys in both agencies also review legislative proposals, respond to citizen inquiries, provide training, and advise state entities.
Externs work as partners with attorneys on their cases and related projects. Assignments include drafting complaints, answers, motions, and responses to motions, drafting trial and appellate court briefs, preparing discovery requests and responses, preparing memoranda on case-related issues, analyzing legislative proposals, attending negotiations, settlement meetings and court hearings, participating in moot courts. Externs make contact with client agency staff, citizens, adversaries, legislators and other attorneys. A weekly seminar provides a legal process perspective on this work.
Credit Hours, Time Commitment and Grading
Approximately 20 externs enroll for five to seven credits and commit fifteen to twenty-one hours per week to the program. Some placements require a 7-credit commitment; others allow a range of 5-7 credits. Grading is pass-fail, based on completion of hours and assignments.
Applications are accepted during the clinical sign up periods. Students are asked to submit a résumé, transcript and letter of interest to Frank Sullivan, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the letter of interest, students indicate their preference of department, units, subject area, and credit commitment.