UCDC Law Program

  1. General Information
  2. Seminar Description
  3. Application Procedures 
  4. Program Staff

General Information

The UCDC Law Program is a uniquely collaborative, full-semester externship program in Washington, DC. The program combines a weekly seminar-style course with a full-time field placement to offer law students an unparalleled opportunity to learn how federal statutes, regulations, and policies are made, changed, and understood in the nation’s capital. During four months’ total immersion in the theory and practice of Washington lawyering, students will have contact with all three branches of the federal government, independent regulatory agencies, and advocacy nonprofits.

The Program includes law students from Berkeley, UCLA, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and Hastings.  Students will receive 13 units for successful completion of the program: 10 units for the field placements and 3 units for the required companion course, “Law and Lawyering in the Nation’s Capital.” The Program is housed at the University of California Washington Center, a UC facility located at 1608 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W.

Seminar Description

Students’ externships in the UCDC Law Program have two main components: full-time lawyering at the externship site, and the 3-credit once-a-week evening companion seminar.

The seminar is designed to enhance the externship experience in three principal ways. First, students will learn about the process of federal lawmaking directly from leading government lawyers, lobbyists, and public interest advocates.  Second, they will explore new career opportunities unique to lawyering in Washington, even as they enhance their skill sets for success in any career path. Third, they will investigate the unique roles of lawyers in making and changing federal law and policy. Class sessions include frequent guest speakers and class discussion based on students’ questions. Each student will write a final paper on a legal topic relevant to the externship, selected in consultation with the instructor and the externship supervisor. The final classes of the term are devoted to student presentations on their final papers in progress. 


Application Procedures

Students apply to the Program in the semester prior to their externships, subject to the academic rules cited below. The Program works with each student to identify quality placements in their preferred practice area.  The Program will also connect prospective and current UCDC law students with alumni of the Program as well as with alumni of the participating schools who have made their careers in Washington. The Program Director visits each participating law school every term, and is available for individual consultations with students.

Please access the application with the link here

A listing of updated application deadlines can be found if you click here

  1. Confirm that you are eligible to participate in the UCDC Law Program: First year students may not participate in the UCDC Law Program; Second-year law students may participate during their spring semester only; and Third-year law students may participate during the fall or spring.
  2. Bring your initial questions to UCDC Law Program Director Nicole Lehtman, Nicole.Lehtman@ucdc.edu, (202) 974-6392. Sue Schechter, Field Placement Director, sschechter@law.berkeley.edu, (510) 643-7387, is also available to discuss the program.
  3. Try to identify the kind of experience you seek. Do you want to learn about:
    • Legislation and the political lawmaking process? Examples are:
      • House or Senate committee
      • Office of Legislative Counsel
      • Government Accountability Office, Congressional Research Service, etc.
    • The regulatory, oversight and/or enforcement work of the executive departments, independent agencies, federally chartered corporations, or quasi-official agencies?  Examples include:
      • Justice, State and Treasury Departments
      • Agencies in executive departments like the Federal Aviation Administration or the Food and Drug Administration
      • Independent administrative agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Election Commission, etc.
    • Influencing federal lawmaking as an advocate at a national nonprofit?  Examples include:
      • American Civil Liberties Union
      • American Enterprise Institute
      • Human Rights Watch
      • Center for Strategic and International Studies, etc.
    • A particular area of substantive law, regardless of where you work in the lawmaking continuum?  Examples include:
      • economic regulation
      • national security
      • civil rights and liberties
      • health care
      • education, etc.
    • More traditional lawyering unique to DC? Examples include:the litigating divisions of the Justice Department, the general counsel’s office of another department, or national public interest law firms such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Public Citizen Litigation Group, etc.

Students are encouraged to conduct their own research considering the above-mentioned factors. The Director is available to assist.

4.  A sample list of placements can be found if you click here.

We are constantly developing new externship opportunities, and will work with students and externship supervisors to achieve the best possible matches. All placements, whether secured by you or by the Program, must be approved by Ms. Lehtman and will have to meet certain criteria, including:

  • Direct supervision by an attorney
  • Work with government, non-profit or advocacy organization.
  • Commitment from the externship supervisor to ensure an educational experience consistent with the UCDC Law Externship Agreement

You may then complete the UCDC Law application (click here.)

5.   Once your application is submitted, Ms. Lehtman will schedule a phone call to discuss placement options that are consistent with your interests.  You are free to start applying for placements on your own as well prior to submitting the application.

6.   Once you secure a placement and have been approved for the UCDC Law Program, you will be given the course control number to enroll.

7.   Please complete the travel insurance form (click here) before leaving for DC, and email it to nicole.lehtman@ucdc.edu, with a copy to Sue Schechter, sschechter@law.berkeley.edu.


Program Staff

Nicole V. Lehtman is the Director of the University of California Washington DC Law Program. Prior to joining the UCDC Law Program, Ms. Lehtman served as the first program manager and adjunct professor for the Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Washington DC Legal Externship Program. In that position, Ms. Lehtman was responsible for counseling law students from across the country on available externship opportunities with the federal government and DC-based non-profit organizations; and provided students with support and guidance throughout their time in Washington, DC. Ms. Lehtman also has served as an adjunct professor in the Trial Advocacy program at American University’s Washington College of Law.Ms. Lehtman has extensive government experience working as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice. Most recently, Ms. Lehtman served as a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs, where she coordinated international extradition and mutual legal assistance matters involving Latin America. Ms. Lehtman previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia where she was responsible for prosecuting criminal actions in the District of Columbia on behalf of the United States. Ms. Lehtman also has worked at a private law firm in South Florida specializing in civil litigation and international arbitration.  Born in Miami, Ms. Lehtman is a native Spanish speaker whose family is from Santiago, Chile. She is a graduate, cum laude, of American University’s Washington College of Law and of the University of Miami, where she graduated, with honors, with a degree in Political Science and International Studies.


Contact Information:
UCDC Law Program
University of California Washington Center
1608 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., Room 342
Washington, DC 20036
Telephone: (202) 974-6392
Fax: (202) 974-6250
Nicole Lehtman, Director

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