FROM CLASSROOM TO COURTROOM IN 10 MONTHS
This summer, over 100 first-year Suffolk Law students are working alongside judges in courthouses all over New England thanks to the school’s Judicial Internship program, now in its seventh year.
“It’s a great way for 1L’s to get practical experience early in their career—when they need it the most,” says Judicial Clerkship Advisor Margaret Talmers, who runs the program.
James Long III JD’13 interned with two judges at the Boston Municipal Court in Roxbury in the summer of 2011, drafting opinions for both the trial and appellate courts. He calls the experience “priceless.”
Pictured: The Hon. Timothy Hillman JD’73 with 2012 interns Sammy Nabulsi and Ellen McClintock.
“You get the sense that some first-year interns at small firms can end up being treated as glorified secretaries,” Long says. “Meanwhile, the first day I was at the courthouse, I was handed a case. I had to teach myself Massachusetts criminal procedure in one week!”
That same summer, Sarah Fischer JD’13 interned at the US District Court under Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler JD’76. In her first week, she got to see Governor Deval Patrick testify in the Sal DiMasi trial. Fischer remembers thinking, “That’s it, that’s the highlight of the summer right there. How could it get any better?” But it did.
“A couple of weeks later, I showed up to work one morning and there were cars and press trucks everywhere,” she recalls. The notorious mobster Whitey Bulger was at the Moakley Courthouse after 16 years on the run.
“This is something everyone should do their first year,” Fischer says. “Not to say other internships aren’t worthwhile, but I think you have to try harder to get as much out of the experience.” In the courthouse, she says, “You see law, and lawyers, in practice. It helps you ask: Do I want to be a litigator? A trial attorney? Or should I pursue a corporate career, because this just isn’t for me?”
One year later, Fischer is working as a Summer Associate at a prominent downtown law firm, and she says her judicial internship definitely helped her land the position. “The research and writing experience was invaluable,” she says. “I ended up with a great writing sample at the end of the summer. Not to mention the confidence that I do in fact know what I’m talking about.”
Long, who is interested in international law – he writes for the Suffolk Transnational Law Review and spent his spring break shadowing an attorney in Japan – agrees that the practical experience of working in a courthouse helped him immensely; for one thing, it forced him to be more concise in his writing. “You can’t write a 1,000-page legal treatise in a document to the court,” he says. And the internship is already helping his case as he applies for a clerkship after graduation. “One of the check boxes on the application is always, ‘Have you interned with a judge before?’ I think it’s certainly something they look for.”
The Power of Suffolk Law Nation
One of the driving forces behind the program’s success is the eagerness of area judges – many of them Suffolk Law alumni – to take on first-year interns from Suffolk Law School.
Fischer says she’s grateful for the active involvement she’s seen among Suffolk Law alumni and professors. “I heard Judge Bowler address a group of students once, and she told us how Suffolk supported her throughout her career, and that it would support us as well.” Judge Bowler lived up to her word, Fischer says, taking time to teach and explain things, and really getting to know the interns in her court. “It made it really hard to leave at the end of the summer.”
Even the Suffolk Law alumni at her new job have gone out of their way to make her feel welcome. “Every Suffolk alum I’ve interacted with really wants us to succeed,” Fischer says.
Long has witnessed the same kind of alumni activism, and suspects it’s one reason Suffolk Law is respected in the legal community – even as far away as his hometown of Macon, Ga. “I think it has this reputation for diligent, hard workers.”
Despite her enthusiastic endorsement of the program, Fischer says it can be a real challenge – particularly financially. In addition to working 40 hours a week at the internship, she put in another 20 hours a week at a part-time job. And still, by the end of the summer, she had to ask her parents for money -- “for the first time since I was 18. It was humbling.”
Long was forced to do the same. That’s one reason he and Fischer approached Associate Dean Karen Blum about creating an assistance fund for future interns. The result, the First-Year Student Internship Program (FYSIP) Fund, will provide a modest stipend to first-year Suffolk Law interns. “You don’t want anyone to have to choose a $10/hour job over something as valuable as a judicial internship,” Long says. “This will at least help them pay for a T pass and some other expenses.”
Fischer echoes his sentiment. “No one should have to turn down a judicial position for a paid job,” she says. “There will be plenty of chances to work at a law firm; working for a judge is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
To help support a first-year Suffolk Law student in an unpaid internship, donate via the Online Giving Form, select “Other,” and type in “FYSIP Fund.”
A hundred first-year students working directly with judges? It’s what happens when active alumni and passionate professors go the extra mile for students.
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