Labor Law Externship

Fall or Spring Semester
(5 Credits)

The Labor Law Externship allows students to spend 16 hours a week working under the supervision of attorneys of the National Labor Relations Board in Milwaukee, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Milwaukee, or the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in Madison. Placements are also made at the U.S. Department of Labor in Chicago, the Employment Section of the Madison City Attorney's Office, the State Personnel Commission, the Milwaukee School Board, and the Elder Law Center in its new Pension Rights Project. Very occasionally placements are made in the U.S. Attorney's Office, if someone is working on a major employment law issue (novel interpretation of the American with Disabilities Act, criminal prosecution under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, etc.). The school cannot reimburse students for the cost of transportation to and from externships located in Milwaukee or Chicago. A minimum of eight hours is spent on site at the agency, and the other eight might be spent in the field, in court, at the agency or, more often, in the UW Library here in Madison.

The primary labor and employment law agencies are fully committed to providing an appropriate level of supervision, instruction and breadth of assignment. Students attend hearings and trials, help conduct representation elections, write draft opinions, write memos and parts of briefs or other litigation documents, research current issues, interview witnesses in preparation for trial and help with discovery and the development of relevant facts. In general, they are exposed to the broad range of substantive labor and employment law work done by each agency, as well as to the procedural processes developed by each agency for making decisions concerning the merit of a complaint or charge, the litigation worthiness of a particular case, and the interrelationship between field and national offices, and between agencies.

The faculty coordinator maintains an ongoing relationship with the several agencies, discusses the work done by the students, and, in addition, conducts periodic seminars at which current issues in labor law are discussed. Students may also be asked to read new Supreme Court decisions or major employment law developments in the state or in the Seventh Circuit, or newly released books on a variety of subjects. Students are also sometimes asked to attend particular lectures on campus that would be particularly relevant to their placement.

Students earn 5 credits for a semester's work. Each student keeps a journal of his or her assignments over the course of the externship which is turned in at the end of the semester together with an evaluation of the placement commenting specifically on the quality and variety of assignments and on the level and quality of supervision. The faculty coordinator also discusses the performance of each student with the supervising attorneys at each of the agencies. In addition, the faculty coordinator talks to each student during the course of the semester; if there are problems with the assignments or with the supervisor (and sometimes there are), the coordinator resolves those with the agency involved.

Criteria for Participation

The only criteria for placement is that the student must have taken one of the basic employment law courses, either previously, or with the coordinator's permission, simultaneously with the placement, and that the student be willing to commit to the time demands imposed by the clinical. No student meeting these criteria has ever been denied placement although students may have had to wait a semester before their specific interest can be accommodated. (Preference in assignments goes to students who will be graduating.)

Students placed in the National Labor Relations Board are required to complete all the forms for federal employment (including fingerprinting and a personal photograph), and to be cleared in Washington, because they are provided with official government credentials so that they can participate in witness location and interviewing, site inspections and the conduct of secret ballot elections.

The school has entered into formal agreements with these agencies, authorizing the students to work without compensation, in exchange for hands-on educational experience and for the recognized credit under the auspices of a formal clinical out-placement.

For more information, contact Professor Carin Clauss at 262-3422, caclauss@wisc.edu .

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