I had the privilege of working as a judicial extern for the Honorable Joan N. Ericksen (’81) of the U.S. District Court this fall 2011 semester and was exposed to a multitude of legal issues that furthered my understanding of the law well beyond what I could ever learn in the classroom. For example, one of my first projects was a "report and recommendation," in which I was asked to review a magistrate judge’s recommendation, read the relevant party briefs, research the applicable law, and present my findings to the judge based on the appropriate standard of review. As I worked, it was comforting to discover that my first year of law school provided me with a very solid foundation, in both my substantive classes and in legal writing, from which to move forward.
I also gained valuable experience assisting Judge Ericksen’s law clerks with miscellaneous projects, such as researching a specific area of law or helping draft the fact section of an order. These projects served as a reminder of the importance of verbal precision in the legal profession. I was able to hone these skills during my externship, often discussing a specific legal issue one-on-one with the clerks, or sometimes even with the judge.
I think, however, the most valuable lessons I took away from my externship were those learned observing various courtroom proceedings. I was able to sit in on jury selection, sentencing for convicted criminals, plea changes, and even trials. Watching the court at work made me think about the kind of lawyer I would like to be one day and, more than anything, gave me a great deal of respect for the role that judges play in our legal system.
By Laura Cowan (’13)