Pivoting with excellence: Law externship director helps prep students for virtual practice

January 06, 2021

by Frank Garza

Hustling to move the law school’s Externship Program online by summer, Amanda Rivas (J.D. ’09), Director of Externships, said her main focus was on supporting externship supervisors and externs as they switched to remote working environments, ensuring that students would continue to receive challenging work and feedback.   

Amanda Rivas_G&B_Web
Amanda Rivas, J.D.

Externships are experiential learning courses that allow St. Mary’s J.D. students to earn credit while working with a nonprofit, government agency or select in-house counsel. They give students a better understanding of the relationship between legal doctrine and practical legal skills.    

Externship Program staff created a training video and resource manual, hosted supervisor training sessions and added tailored resources for students.   

Rivas emphasized building community among her students via online discussions of American Bar Association articles, TED Talks, interactive timelines and more.   

“Starting an externship comes with all the stress and anxiety of starting a new job. It’s an exciting but scary time,” Rivas said. “Self-doubt can overwhelm you. Building community in our online course from the start assures students they are not going through these growing pains alone.”  

Developing a sense of community ensures students will continue to develop the skills they need for future work.  

“Virtual practice may last longer than this pandemic crisis,” Rivas said. “We want our students to leave their externships with the skills to succeed.”

More about how the St. Mary's University School of Law community responded to the pandemic:

Pivoting with excellence: All-star professor leads the way for national virtual advocacy competitions

The day that A.J. Bellido de Luna, J.D., Hardy Director of Advocacy and Service Professor, was supposed to cancel the St. Mary’s University School of Law’s Lone Star Classic for the fall, three other advocacy competitions had been canceled.

Pivoting with excellence: Law assistant dean forges new digital connections

In some ways, going virtual has made it easier for the Office for Law Student Affairs to meet with students, said Alan K. Haynes, J.D., Assistant Dean for Law Student Affairs. Setting up meetings with students before could be difficult, especially if they lived outside San Antonio. Even if it’s just a conversation, Haynes will use Zoom instead of the phone to talk to the student.

Pivoting with excellence: Law associate dean brings legal topics into focus through online instruction

Even before COVID-19 hit, Colin P. Marks, J.D., Associate Dean for Graduate and Summer Programs and Ernest W. Clemens Professor of Law, was certified to teach classes online. So, when he pivoted his approach mid-semester last spring, his students continued to learn through short video lectures with quizzes and a once-a-week Zoom session to discuss learning objectives and questions.

Pivoting with excellence: Law associate dean hones sense of gratitude through online transition

This fall, Ramona L. Lampley, J.D., Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, kept students engaged through a hybrid of synchronous and asynchronous components, coupled with multiple assessments and a flipped classroom model.

Pivoting with excellence: St. Mary’s Law adapts in response to pandemic

This year, the St. Mary’s University School of Law community joined together as never before to meet the needs of its student body and the San Antonio region.

Pivoting with excellence: Law students and alumni unite to provide remote services to health care workers

Several St. Mary's Law students and alumni joined an effort by the San Antonio Legal Services Association (SALSA) to draft wills for health care workers battling COVID-19 on the frontlines in San Antonio this summer.

Back to top