Work-integrated learning (WIL) is a risky business in higher education. The strategic opportunities that WIL presents for universities cannot be achieved without taking on unavoidable legal risks. University lawyers are involved with managing the legal risks as part of their internal delivery of legal services to universities. It is important to identify the risks that potentially arise, so these can then be managed. A case study involving Australian university lawyers reveals the ‘program risks’ of WIL. Program risk is a type of legal risk that relates to the conduct of universities, host organisations and students before, during and after a WIL placement, as well as the personal characteristics of students that can expose the university to legal risk. The research findings may be applied by university lawyers, academic disciplines and university management to evaluate and improve risk management in WIL programs'Risks and Rewards of Externships: Exploring Goals and Methods' (Monash University Faculty of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3071105) by Linda Smith, Jeff Giddings and Leah Wortham explores
the full range of goals one might have for an extern program and the methods one should use to achieve those goals. Despite regulatory focus on practice readiness and “skills” development, externships need not and sometimes should not have “skills” as the primary goal. If skills are to be a focus, then students must learn the theory and methods behind the skills to be used in the placement either through targeted pre-requisites, a skills-focused classroom component, or selection of placement supervisors with the ability to impart both the relevant theory and methods. Commentators have identified both skills and professionalism as lacking in legal education, and externships have special advantages for development of professional identity and for institutional critique--the micro and the macro aspects of professionalism. Students are in the “real world,” able to try out a professional identity and to study the ways in which their supervisors enact the lawyering role. They are encountering actual legal institutions that function well or not-so-well, which should lead to critical inquiry into these institutions. The emotional and analytical distance between the teacher at the law school and the day-to-day supervisor should facilitate the exploration of both professional identity and institutional critique. Exploring these aspects of professionalism are rich and important goals, we argue, that extern programs ought to seek.