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 UC 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.” As of now there is no cap on enrollment. The Program typically enrolls between 15 and 35 students.  The Program is housed at the University of California Washington Center, a UC facility located at 1608 Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., just minutes from the White House and most government departments and agencies. 

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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 class.

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. Part of each session will be devoted to a “grand rounds”-style exchange to facilitate peer-to-peer learning about lawyering at the broad range of externship sites. 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 externships or their final papers in progress. The current syllabus can be found here.

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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 help 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 at other times for individual consultations with students who are considering applying.

Please access the application here

We are currently accepting applications for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019.

A listing of updated application deadlines can be found here

  1. Before you start the process, confirm that you are eligible. First-year students may not undertake field placements for academic credit; sixth-semester students may take field placements by permission.
  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 personal staff or 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.   The program has a growing number of placements. Below is the complete list of placements since the program’s inception in Spring 2009.

American Civil Liberties Unit (ACLU), National Prison Project
American Council on Education, Office of General Council
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
American Gas Association
Center for Law & Education
Center for Reproductive Rights
Congressional Oversight Panel (defunct)
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
DC Public Defender Service
DC Public Defender Service Trial Division
Earth Rights International
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
Executive Office of the President, Domestic Policy Council, Immigration Policy Team
Executive Office of the President
Fair Elections Legal Network or HELP
Federal Trade Commission:
Bureau of Competition, Health Care Division
Bureau of Consumer Protection, Division of Financial Practices
International Affairs Office
Food and Drug Administration:
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
Commissioner’s Office, Office of Policy
House Committee on Financial Services
Human Rights USA
Human Rights Watch, Middle East and North Africa Program
Human Rights Watch, Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program
Indian Law Resource Center
International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI)
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
National Women’s Law Center
Native American Rights Fund
Natural Resource Defense Council – Climate Policy Center
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Department of Legal Affairs
Rights Working Group
Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
Securities and Exchange Commission:
Corporate Finance Division
Enforcement Division
Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Feingold
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution
Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s Office
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office
The American Israel Public Affairs
Treasury Office of Government Commerce International
U.S. Department of Commerce, Commercial Law Development Program
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education (local Washington, DC office)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Division – General Counsel’s  Office
U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor Division of Indian Affairs
U.S. Department of Justice – Civil Appellate
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division:
Coordination and Review Section
CRT Special Litigation
CRT Voting
Disability Rights Section
Special Litigation Section
U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division:
Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section
Fraud Section
Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training
Organized Crime & Racketeering Section
U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division:
Environmental Enforcement Section
Law and Policy Section
U.S. Department of Justice – Office of International Affairs
U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties
U.S. Department of Labor:
Office of Administrative Law Judges
Office of Legal Policy
Office of the Solicitor Division of Civil Rights & Labor Management
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Office of the Administrator for Policy & External Affairs (OAPEA)
U.S. State Department – Office of Policy Planning
U.S. Tax Court
U.S. Treasury Department:
International Affairs Office of the General Counsel
International Tax Counsel
Office of Consumer Protection
Office of the General Counsel (Domestic Affairs)
Washington Legal Foundation
White House Counsel’s Office
White House Domestic Policy Council, Urban Policy
White House, Office of Public Engagement

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
  • Involvement with federal law (either legislative, executive, regulatory or advocacy work)
  • Commitment from the externship supervisor to ensure an educational experience consistent with the UCDC Law Externship Agreement

You may then proceed to download and complete the UCDC Law application and the travel insurance form. Please e-mail it as an attachment to law@ucdc.edu, with a copy to Sue Schechter, sschechter@law.berkeley.edu

5.   Once your application is submitted, Ms. Lehtman will schedule an appointment with you 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.

Popular UCDC Placements  

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 before leaving for DC, and email it to law@ucdc.edu, with a copy to Sue Schechter, sschechter@law.berkeley.edu.

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Program Staff

Nicole V. Lehtman is the newly appointed 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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