Semester in Practice - Frequently Asked Questions

    The Semester-in-Practice Program allows students to earn a semester's worth of academic credit for working full-time at an approved legal placement.  Most students work in government and non-profit settings, engaging in legal representation and assistance to the public.  In limited circumstances, students can work in a private law firm, and other private law settings. The most important requirement is that there needs to be an experienced attorney who will supervise the student on a day-to-day basis. The placement must be approved by the Semester-in-Practice coordinator, but as long as the student is working in a government or non-profit setting, most placements will be approved.  The supervisor at the placement needs to agree to accept the student to work at that placement—most placements are more than willing to host an Albany Law student.  Generally, the placement lasts the entire length of a semester, or 14 weeks, and the student works a minimum of 33 hours per week over those 14 weeks

      Generally speaking, students will earn 12 credits for working in a Semester-in-Practice placement.  This constitutes working 33 per hours per week over the 14-week semester, and participating in a weekly, one-hour, classroom discussion that is typically joined remotely by all students.  There is some flexibility in the number of hours that students can work and the number of credits they will obtain.  Basically, a student earns one credit for working three hours over the course of the 14 weeks of a semester.  For students who do not need the full 11 credits of externship time, need a few more, or want some flexibility, we can generally accommodate some changes to the number of hours worked in a week, and the number of credits the students earn over the course of the semester.  For example, some students, in their final semester of law school, do not need all 11 credits to graduate, and thus work a slightly reduced number of hours each week, with a corresponding reduction in the credits they will earn.  Generally speaking though, students will work 33 hours a week, for 14 weeks, and earn 11 credits for that work, and then earn the additional one credit for the classroom component of the class.  Students earn 1 credit for every three hours a week they work for 14 weeks of the semester.  In addition, they must also complete the summative and evaluative work assigned through the accompanying classroom component, as well as that which is needed to close and/or transition their cases and projects.  Altogether, students must complete a total of 42.5 hours of work per credit earned over the course of the semester.

        Students can only work in a law office where there is an attorney competent to supervise the student and who is available to supervise him or her on a day-to-day basis. Most students choose to work in a government or non-profit setting.  In limited circumstances, we will approve internships that take place in a private setting, that is, in a law firm, under certain restrictions.  A private placement may be approved if the type of work the student wants to do at that placement is not generally available in a government or non-profit setting.  For example, a student might want to work on real estate transactions or do intellectual property work.  Those types of placements are more difficult to find in government and non-profit settings and we will consider a private law placement in such circumstances.

          The big difference between the Semester-in-Practice Program and the Summer-in-Practice Program is that the Summer-in-Practice Program lasts only seven weeks.  In addition, the Summer-in-Practice Program affords students the opportunity to obtain, at most, six credits.  There are options that allow students to earn fewer than six credits, based on the number of hours students will work.  Otherwise, the Semester-in-Practice Program and the Summer-in-Practice Program are quite similar. 

            The student should think about a number of different factors.  The most important: what type of experience does the student want to get and what type of law does the student want to practice?  A student should also consider the region in which he or she wants to work in a placement, and the location where he or she might want to work after graduation.  A student may use a Semester-in-Practice placement to develop contacts in an area in which he or she wants to work after graduation.  A student may also want to live with family for a semester and save money on expenses for room and board.  The main questions should be what type of work does the student want to do; what type of law office does the student want to work in; and where does the student want to live and work, both during his or her years in school as well as after.

              Probably the best time to think about participating in the Semester-in-Practice Program is in the second semester of a student's second year, so in the spring semester of the 2L year.  It is certainly possible to do it in the spring or fall of a student's third year, and many students do it in those semesters.  To give students the maximum amount of flexibility for taking required classes, and classes that he or she might want to take to get prepared for the bar, sometimes it makes sense to make the second semester of a student's second year the Semester-in-Practice semester.  On occasion, students have taken Semester-in-Practice in the fall semester of their second year, but that is generally discouraged because it can create logistical problems with the remaining required classes to take that semester.  Your academic advisor, or the Semester in Practice advisor, will help you to consider the best semester to participate in the Semester-in-Practice Program.

                Taking other classes when enrolling in the Semester-in-Practice program is not impossible, but it requires some thoughtful planning.  Our online classes, which do not require a student to be on campus, may offer the simplest option. If a student is based locally, in the Capital Region of New York State, it might be easy for him or her to work out a schedule with his or her placement supervisor that would enable the student to take classes and still participate in the Semester-in-Practice program. Students can also explore taking the Semester-in-Practice Program for a reduced number of hours and thus enroll in other classes at the same time.  Any arrangement through which a student might enroll in the Semester-in-Practice Program and additional classes should be approved by the Semester-in-Practice advisor, the Registrar, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and his or her student's placement supervisor. 

                  No.  A student cannot receive a salary or stipend for the time that he or she is also receiving academic credit.  It is possible that a student could finish his or her Semester-in-Practice placement hours in a given week, or by the end of the semester, and then receive payment form his or her placement for work that is done outside of the required Semester-in-Practice hours, but a student cannot get paid for any hours he or she is enrolled in the Semester-in-Practice Program and receiving academic credit for such hours. 

                    The Semester-in-Practice Program operates just like any academic semester in which the student is enrolled.  The general financial aid and/or scholarship package that a student receives during that academic semester would apply to his or her Semester-in-Practice semester.  There are some restrictions on financial aid and student scholarships for the Summer-in-Practice program and students should consult with the Financial Aid Office to discuss such restrictions and the extent to which they might apply to that student. 

                      Yes.  A student could participate in a Semester-in-Practice placement where he or she volunteered or where he or she received academic credit through the law school's Field Placement Program. 

                        Once again the answer here is whether a student is engaged in the Semester-in-Practice Program in a placement that is close to the Law School's campus. In such situations, it is fairly easy for a student to also participate in student activities. When a student has a placement that is not in the Capital Region, it is likely too difficult for the student to participate in moot court for that semester.  Students have participated in a student-edited journal when participating in the Semester-in-Practice Program—including remotely—but he or she would have to coordinate that with the law journal editors to ensure that he or she can meet the obligations and expectations of the journal. 

                          Students must find their own housing situation, and cover their own expenses for room and board. 

                            Students should begin by thinking about where they want to work, both geographically and the type of office in which they want to work.  Then students could contact the Semester-in-Practice advisor as soon as they are considering participating in the Semester-in-Practice Program to discuss their options and next steps. 

                              Students will participate in the Semester-in-Practice program in just one of their six semesters enrolled in the law school.  There is plenty of time to fit in their required courses and those courses that cover subjects that are tested on different states' bar exams.  If students want to ensure that they have all of their classes covered, and are prepared for taking bar subjects, they can consider enrolling in the Semester-in Practice Program in the second semester of their second year.  That will give them a full year after participating in the Semester-in-Practice Program to cover all required classes and study subjects covered on the bar in the year immediately preceding the bar exam.


                              Ray Brescia
                              Hon. Harold R. Tyler Chair in Law and Technology; Professor of Law