Washington D.C. Externship Program

Fireworks over Washington DCStudents who work in government or related entities in Washington, D.C. will ultimately acquire an enhanced perspective and more sophisticated view of the role of government in law and society. Under the program, students work under supervision of an on-site attorney, for a government, public interest agency, non-profit trade association, think tank, corporation, or with a judge; students will also be enrolled in a program of graded coursework.

In addition to practical legal training, the program allows students to cement new professional contacts and enhance their professional profile.  Students who have participated in the program have most recently worked at:

  • Securities and Exchange Commission   
  • Department of Interior
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • House Subcommittee on Education and Labor
  • Department of State
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Center for Constitutional Rights
  • DC Attorney General—Office of Solicitor General
  • American Gas Association
  • Nutritional Products Association

Washington DC MetroUnder the supervision of an on-site attorney, students work in a semester-long externship in D.C. for a government or public interest agency, non-profit trade association, think-tank or with a judge.

Fall Semester
Total Units Available in D.C.:
Up to 15 units
Externship Units in D.C.:
Up to 9 pass-fail units available for the semester.
(50 semester hours of work equates to 1 unit)
Course Units in D.C.:
6 letter-graded units
  • "Legislative Advocacy" (3 units) is a required course.
  • "Executive Branch Regulatory Policy and Law" (3 units) is strongly recommended.
  * Individual externships also have internal deadlines

Make sure you are aware of them so you do not miss the deadline for your ideal externship!

Unique Lectures and Activities

Students attend guest lectures by prominent D.C.-based attorneys, field trips to the United States Supreme Court, and lunch and happy hours with influential and dedicated USD School of Law alumni in D.C. Students are encouraged to participate in a mentorship program with USD Law alumni. These important relationships last well after the externship experience ends.

Washington DC MallEnroll Today

To enroll in USD's Washington, D.C. Externship program, complete the application form. You will be contacted by the Career and Professional Development Office to help coordinate your placement.

Graduate-level students out in D.C. What do students say about their semester in D.C.?

“It’s great! It’s been very busy though. I got to work on two big projects, including our recent Supreme Court case (SEC v. Gabelli) and the SEC Speaks conference. I am loving D.C., and I think it provides an extremely valuable experience for USD students! I would definitely hope this program is made available for future students."
  — Chuck Zhang, '15 (JD)

Semester at the EPA

"My work is providing great exposure to the enforcement of agency regulations, and of course I am learning much more about environmental law. I also find it really beneficial that we have the opportunity to work 30-40 hours each week, as I think it allows us to really get involved in long term projects and provides greater exposure to different aspects of, and people within, the Agency. I am learning a lot and enjoying my time in the internship, and I think that has been reflected in my work product thus far.

The USD alumni group in D.C. has been great as well, and we have had the opportunity to attend a luncheon and a happy hour with some of the more recent graduates. I also met my alumni mentor for lunch yesterday, and she has been a great contact to have. Overall, I think that they have added to the experience as well, and have offered great advice for adjusting to life in D.C.

Overall, the internship has been a great experience so far, and I very much appreciate the opportunity to spend the semester in D.C."
  — Danielle Vallone, '16 (JD)

Semester at a National Trade Association

"My externship at a trade association in D.C. has been full of awesome opportunities and excitement. I have been offered a permanent position, or at minimum, help finding a position working within the industry here in D.C. I submitted my first comment to FDA, for which I received praise from the association and our general counsel. My employer has been experiencing leadership changes since I arrived that have provided an excellent opportunity to take the initiative to stand out.

I stayed on in a paid position through the summer."
  — Amber Littlejohn, '14 (JD)

Semester at the U.S. Department of State

"I am so appreciative of this opportunity and USD's support. Every day here presents invaluable experience, networking opportunities, and exciting events to attend. I am already planning how I can return next summer."
  — Gwendolyn Holdgreiwe, '15 (JD)

News from USD Law Students in D.C.

Evan Allen

Evan Allen, '15 (JD), spent the spring 2014 semester working at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as part of USD’s Washington D.C. internship program. Allen credits the program with helping him develop many important skills he will use as a young attorney. »read more about Evan

Mary Alfred

Mary Alfred, '14 (JD), is a woman who makes things happen. At the beginning of her second semester in law school she began aggressively searching for summer work opportunities, and through a combination of smart on-line research and networking, she landed two excellent placements, one on Capitol Hill, and the other with a major corporation. »read more about Mary

Erin Grisby

Erin Grisby, '14 (JD), spent seven months working in federal government offices in Washington, D.C. through her work with USD's Center for Public Interest Law. She jumped at the chance to extend her stay in the nation's capital through the law school’s Washington, D.C. Externship Program, securing an externship at the Department of Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Section. With the experience she gained, Grisby hopes to practice environmental and energy law in California or D.C. »read more about Erin

Adams Morgan neighborhood in the D.C. areaFrequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I find living accommodations in D.C.?

A: The following locations offer short-term housing options for student interns in Washington, D.C.:

Q. Do I need a car in D.C.?

A. Depending on where you work and live, it may be easier to take the public transportation. Washington's Metro system is one of the most efficient public transportation systems in the world.

Q. How do I buy a Metro pass?

A. Follow the instructions online to obtain your SmarTrip Card.

Do You Have More Questions?

Email the Office of Career and Professional Development or Vice Dean, Mary Jo Wiggins. They can be reached at lawcareers@sandiego.edu.


Career and Professional Development
Warren Hall, Room 113
Phone: (619) 260-4529
Fax: (619) 260-6828


Monday-Thursday 8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Evening appointments available upon request.

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