MSU College of Law

The DC Semester Program:
Make a Mark in the Nation’s Capital

Planning a career in government work? Start here.

MSU Law students can gain hands-on experience by working for federal agencies in Washington, DC. From doing policy work at the Department of Defense to researching enforcement mechanisms at the Environmental Protection Agency, Spartan law students get their start in the nation's capital in the Washington, DC, Semester Program.


“Policy is where the law is written. It’s the genesis for laws and the basis for all the advice lawyers give their clients.”

David Rader, ‘16
DC extern, RAND Corporation, Department of Defense
Investment Analyst, Department of Defense

The DC program provides a powerful supplement to coursework. There’s nothing quite like learning the law in the place where much of U.S. law originates. Students work closely with policy-makers, elected officials, and federal regulators to see where laws come from and they’re enforced.

It’s an eye-opening experience, and can mark the start of a lifelong passion for critical social issues.

As an extern with the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Sarah Warpinski, ’13, performed policy advocacy against child exploitation and worked on sex trafficking trials. Her experience in the Capital turned into outstanding post-graduation opportunities – Warpinski received a prestigious Skadden Fellowship to fund postgraduate work on behalf of human trafficking victims.


The DC program builds a bridge between studying law and practicing it – and a bridge between East Lansing and the seat of American government.

The program is an impressive resume-builder, and students leverage the experiences (and references) that they get on the job into employment opportunities. “MSU Law has a great reputation with federal agencies, thanks to the network of fellow alumni who were hired following their externships,” said Rachel Dowell, ’11. “This exposure gives MSU Law grads an edge in a town that can be hard to break into.” The exposure pays off: she got her start as a DC extern at the US Office of Government Ethics, which hired her upon graduation. Dowell currently works for the Office of the White House Counsel.

DC externs have the opportunity to connect with Spartan lawyers who live and work in DC, building their network of nationwide employment contacts.

In addition to working for countless law firms and lobbying groups, our DC alumni are employed by:

Department of Defense
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
National Congress of American Indians
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Office of White House Counsel
US Senate
US Commission on Civil Rights
US Department of State


Externs work for federal agencies for about 24 hours per week, leaving plenty of time to take courses, sightsee, and experience life in the center of American government. Meetings and events are held throughout the semester for program participants.

2Ls and 3Ls choose their preferred agencies, and MSU Law’s externship placement coordinator place most students with one of their selected employers.

Recent work sites include:

Coast Guard
Commission on Civil Rights
Department of Defense
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of the Interior
Department of Justice
Department of Transportation
Environmental Protection Agency
Equal Opportunity Employment Commission
Securities and Exchange Commission

During the placement process, students receive counseling on resume construction, and interview techniques. They’re also trained in on-the-job protocol, so they can show up as professionals on day one.