Externship Program provides hands-on experience

Khari Ford knew he had to get out of his comfort zone.

“As a Marine Corps officer for eight years, I’m used to being outside, running around, leading people,” he said. “I knew that I needed to do something different. Going into the corporate world was foreign to me.”

Through Charleston School of Law’s Externship Program, Ford secured externship opportunities with the Charleston County Sheriff’s office and Blackbaud.


“I was terrified of cubicles,” said Ford, a Kingsland, Georgia native and rising 3L at the Charleston Law. “I remember my interview thinking, I’m gonna be trapped in a cubicle. I can’t just sit there. But it’s been anything but that. But I went in with an open mind and I got exposed to so much more than just a cubicle.”

Getting comfortable being uncomfortable

Having two externship experiences, Ford had two unique experiences: One at a private company (Blackbaud) and the other at a law enforcement agency (Charleston County Sheriff’s Office).

Blackbaud taught Ford “how to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” he said. “The leaders helped me step into new realms. As an officer in the Marine Corps, it was always wash, rinse, repeat, but Blackbaud taught me to be more dexterous. Understanding what a lawyer does to support board members and their business decisions was critical.”

On his first day at Blackbaud, Ford said he was handed a 600-page document of a proposed SEC rule. He was told to read it and write a memo about what it meant for the company.

“I was stunned by the subject matter and the amount of information that I would have to parse through,” said Ford. “But my supervisor trusted me to unpack 600 pages of new language, learn what it is and draft a memo explaining what the rule meant to the company.”

Ford praised his supervisor Jon Olson, Senior Vice President & General Counsel at Blackbaud, for his guidance. “As a Marine, I can sleep outside in 10 degree weather all day, every day, but a cubicle? He [Olson] changed my perspective on professional conduct, work and how to grow as an individual. Making me uncomfortable paid dividends.”

The value of getting things wrong

Ford said the experience at Charleston County Sheriff’s Office helped him learned how to “get things wrong.”

Working under the direction of Ms. Nicole Peluso, Ford said he realized, “I’m not the captain or the major in the Marine Corps,” he said. “I’m a law student. So, I get the chance to start from scratch and learn a new profession. And this is my chance as an extern to get it wrong and learn from it, so I don’t get it wrong later as someone’s attorney.”

Early in the program, Peluso told Ford, “You’re gonna get it wrong, but you’re learning.”

“It was one of the best things she taught,” he said.

On the job, Ford was tasked with meeting a lot of new people. “I ran around the city meeting people in political positions, support personnel, deputies, administration that keep the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office running. It was a great experience. I had great attorneys mentoring me. I got to work with a lot of different people. Attorneys, deputies, and board members really allowed me to broaden my horizons as far as how I’m able to communicate with others and then actually use some of the legal skills I learned as a law student.”

Getting started

The Externship Program at Charleston Law provides students with meaningful hands-on, practical legal experience in a variety of legal practice areas while earning academic credit. During the 2022-2023 academic year, more than 100 students earned externship credits at a variety of sites, including: Volvo, Mercedes, Blackbaud, and Benefitfocus, federal and state prosecutors and public defenders, state, county, and federal judges, state, county, and local government agencies, local and statewide nonprofits, and private law firms in a wide variety of practice areas.

Charleston School of Law students can select from more than 100 externship locations (or work with the externship director to create a custom externship that meets your legal passion) and find the perfect fit to learn and develop skills in the legal field of their interest, including:

  • Public service
  • Corporate law
  • Criminal law
  • Environmental law
  • Civil litigation, Family law
  • Intellectual property


The Charleston School of Law is an ABA-accredited law school nationally recognized for its student-centric culture. Our faculty and staff are committed to preparing you for success both in the classroom and in the legal profession.

  • The Princeton Review ranks Charleston School of Law professors second in the country for faculty accessibility (2021)
  • Charleston School of Law faculty ranked among the top of The Princeton Review’s list of Best Professors in the nation (2016-2018)
  • Experiential Learning: Charleston School of Law students have access to about more than 150 externship sites, creating opportunities for experiential learning in the legal field.
  • Community Service: Charleston School of Law students have performed more than 241,000 community service hours (2004-current).
  • Students have won the National Tax Moot Court Championship for seven consecutive years (2012-2018)

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