Since its inception, the Appalachian School of Law has distinguished itself from other law schools by providing our students with practical legal experience well before graduation. ASL’s Externship Program is a central part of the school’s commitment to equipping students with practical lawyering skills. All components of the Externship Program are designed to provide ASL students access to valuable, hands-on experience and networking opportunities that will aid in their future law careers. During the externship experience, students engage in activities ranging from observing court proceedings and conducting research to interviewing clients and assisting with trial strategy.
ASL students are required to complete an externship field placement during the summer following their 1L year. Three hours of academic credit are awarded for successful completion of this requirement, which includes a classroom component during the spring semester, followed by at least 200 hours working under the supervision of an experienced attorney during the summer. This experience allows our students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world situations in public interest or pro bono legal environments. The externship placements have the added advantage of fulfilling bar admission requirements such as the State of New York’s prerequisite that those seeking admission to the bar complete 50 hours of pro bono work before the bar examination. Students have the option of securing their own externship site, or selecting a site from ASL’s large database of externship opportunities. ASL’s database includes hundreds of approved site partners across the country.
The Appalachian School of Law has partnered with Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business and Ballad Health to address the legal needs of low-income healthcare patients and alleviate medical issues that are attributable to or exacerbated by unmet legal needs. Through a strategic collaboration, medical, legal, and business professionals combine their expertise to provide a holistic response to address socio-economic needs that influence health. MLPs across the nation have demonstrated promising results.
Buchanan County Legal Clinic
ASL also created in conjunction with our local bar association an on-campus legal client clinics for students seeking to further enhance their experiential learning opportunities. In the clinic setting, students can participate in activities related to law office management. Students have the initial contact with individuals seeking legal assistance. Students complete the intake for the individuals and then observe and participate in meetings with licensed attorneys to address the legal needs of the individuals. The clinic is student-driven but is facilitated by our Clinic Director, a member ASL’s faculty, who works in partnership with other ASL faculty members and pro bono attorneys at the clinic, all of whom instruct and mentor the students in relevant areas of the law.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Clinic
ASL’s mission is to develop professionals who will serve as community leaders and community advocates. ASL provides a unique program of mandatory community service that students may complete in a variety of ways. As a requirement for graduation from ASL, each student must complete 25 hours of community service each semester. During their first semester in law school, students satisfy this requirement by taking the mandatory Introduction to Community Service class, which meets once per week throughout the Fall semester. As just a few examples of direct community service provided by members of ASL community, Law students have volunteered with the Buchanan County Commonwealth’s Attorney, students have tutored and mentored in the public school system, students have assisted Buchanan County by providing property research for the Great Eastern Trail and Spearhead Trail project, students have assisted the Buchanan County Humane Society and volunteered with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (“VITA”) project. Students and faculty may create alternative service projects as well. For example, students have worked at a food bank, created personnel policies and a pay plan for a small town, coached a high school athletic team or other clubs, worked at a local nursing home and worked as child advocates in the court system.
Upper-level Practicum Opportunities
Practicum courses are designed to give students practical, skills-based training. These courses combine skills training with additional instruction in a particular substantive area of the law. The practicum offerings vary from year to year and enrollment in each course is limited.