Co-curricular activities are a very important part of your law school experience. By being a member of a co-curricular journal, the Mock Trial Team or Moot Court Team you will develop vital skills that will help you succeed in your future legal endeavors while also receiving college credit for your efforts. Many employers look for involvement in these types of organizations when hiring interns and associates. There are various ways to effectively prepare during your 1L year to receive an invitation to join one of these organizations.
The best way to prepare to make the Florida State University College of Law Mock Trial team at the end of your 1L year is to join the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) or Phi Alpha Delta (PAD) mock trial teams at the beginning of your 1L year because they allow students to compete in mock trial competitions as 1Ls. By participating in the BLSA or PAD teams, you will become familiar with the intricacies of mock trial competitions while also gaining invaluable experience that will give you an advantage when you are trying out for the Florida State Law team.
Your 1L appellate brief will be one of the most important factors in your Moot Court tryout. I would recommend dedicating a lot of time to researching and writing your brief, getting input from your legal writing professor and completing your brief early. The Moot Court team will grade your written brief, which is why it is so important to write a great one! You also will be required to argue both sides of the issues included in your brief. This will be made easier if you finish writing it early and have time to become familiar with those issues.
By doing well during your 1L year you will improve your chances of becoming a member of the Florida State University Law Review, Journal of Transnational Law & Policy or Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law. There are two ways to accomplish this:
Grading-On: The journals operate their grade-on policies in a slightly different manner. Florida State University Law Review invites the top students from the entire 1L class, while the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law invite the top students of each legal writing class. The students with the best grades overall and who excelled in their legal writing classes have the best chance of grading-on to a journal.
Writing-On: There are two write-on competitions: winter and summer. For both, students are given a prompt and have to write a case note answering a proposed question. This requires them to use writing and citation skills learned in their legal writing classes and illustrates how important it is to diligently work on one’s legal writing memo and appellate brief. The Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law allow 1L’s to compete in the winter write-on competition and all of the journals participate in the summer write-on competition.
The Florida State University Business Review, while not a co-curricular activity, also offers students opportunities to grade-on or write-on. They follow the same procedures as the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy and the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law and participate in both the winter and summer write-on competitions.
For all of these activities, current and prospective students are encouraged to reach out to current members to get more specific advice on how to succeed in making it onto a team or journal. If one is extremely passionate about joining one of the teams or journals, it is also never too early to start preparing.
Abby Altman, 3L
Working as a summer law clerk can be very rewarding and there are many opportunities to accomplish this type of work in all types of government agencies. These placements also offer a great opportunity to expand your network and sometimes a summer clerkship can turn into a longer-term clerkship or lead to a job after law school. The following individuals worked as law clerks in very different government agencies both in Tallahassee and elsewhere.
Christina Smiekle, Class of 2016 – Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Tallahassee, Florida
During the summer following my 2L year I worked for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) in Tallahassee, Florida. DBPR is the state agency charged with licensing and regulating businesses and professionals in the State of Florida. After the summer I continued working with the agency as a law clerk in the Construction Division. My experience at DBPR gave me an opportunity to learn more about administrative law as well as how government agencies work.
Alex Sarsfield, 3L – Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, Tampa, Florida
I spent the summer after my 1L year clerking for an administrative circuit judge in Tampa, Florida. While clerking I was able to write bench memos, perform legal research and acted as a medium with state prosecutors and public defenders in communicating with my judge. Although I do not intend to pursue criminal law as a career, I highly recommend clerking for a judge no matter what your legal interests may be. It was an invaluable experience for honing my legal writing skills as well as an opportunity to work in a professional environment with attorneys.
Christopher O’Brien, 3L – Florida Office of the Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida
During the summer after my 1L year I started my first job in law school as a law clerk with the Florida Office of the Attorney General. I was surprised by how much I learned in such a short period of time, and I truly enjoyed applying what I had learned as a 1L. As the summer was winding down I was asked by my supervisor if I wanted to continue working during the fall semester, which I happily accepted.
Travis Voyles, 3L – United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 4, Atlanta, Georgia
I approached the summer after my 1L year with a desire to get regulatory agency experience on a federal level and earned an opportunity to be a law clerk for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their Region 4 office. Assisting within the Office of Regional Counsel offered many opportunities working with the attorneys and other EPA staff in case meetings, negotiations, and policy updates from the very first day. I was able to work on numerous substantive assignments from attorneys dealing with ongoing issues and areas of concern that needed further research.
As a law clerk I also had the opportunity to participate with the head Regional Counsel and Director in several case update meetings and EPA initiative discussions. It was a great experience due to the desire of the attorneys and staff to expose us to all the different aspects of legal and policy matters that the EPA deals with on a daily basis. While I may not end up working within a federal or state regulatory agency, the experience provided me with an understanding of not only the perspective and responsibilities of federal agencies, but also the work life that is typical of a public sector legal job. I highly encourage law students interested in any type of law with a connection to regulation to seek out positions similar this with the EPA where you can expand your understanding of the regulatory environmental and how it functions from either side of the interaction.
Chistina Smiekle, Class of 2016
Alex Sarsfield, 3L
Christopher O’Brien, 3L
Travis Yoyles, 3L
During the summer following my 1L year I had the privilege of working as an intern for United States District Judge Beth Bloom. Judge Bloom is one of the kindest, most caring, brilliant and inspiring women and I cannot rave enough about the opportunity I had to learn from her. “Are we learning?”, “What did you learn today?”, and “What can I do to help you learn more?” were Judge Bloom’s three favorite questions for her summer interns.
Judge Bloom works out of both the Fort Lauderdale and Miami federal courthouses. Depending on what might be scheduled on a given day, we could be working in either one or both locations. Having a change of scenery with different courthouses, different judges and different interns was extra fun.
As interns we received assignments from our supervising law clerks and were encouraged to go to all of Judge Bloom’s hearings, trials, and sentencings. Throughout the summer I completed memos and draft orders for six motions to dismiss, two Daubert motions and a motion for summary judgment. For one of the motions to dismiss, I even got to request a hearing and was allowed to sit in the Law Clerk/Courtroom Deputy chair since I had done the research and had discussed it with Judge Bloom prior to her ruling from the bench.
On top of the duties that come with being a United States District Judge, Judge Bloom spent every single day trying to make sure her interns were able to experience and learn as much about the legal system as possible. She believed that the best way to learn was through hands-on experience as well as by experiencing as much of the legal world inside and outside of the courthouse. She took us with her to a luncheon where she spoke to the North Broward Bar Association, to the Federal Bar’s Summer Associate Law Day, and to a Naturalization Ceremony she presided over. At the Naturalization Ceremony I was brought to tears by the stories of United States immigrants who had been through it all just to achieve their dreams of becoming United States citizens.
We watched several of Judge Bloom’s cases and those of other U.S. District judges as well as proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, family court, domestic violence court, and even a mob murder trial. I watched the detainment of twenty-seven members of the Latin Kings and the sentencing of two Al-Qaeda terrorists to whom Judge Bloom sentenced the maximum stating, “You are a terrorist, evil in nature and evil in your deeds.” We also got to go on a tour of Miami’s Federal Detention Center and the women’s prison in Homestead, Florida where we were able to see what goes on in criminal cases outside the walls of the courthouse before and after detainment, bond hearings and sentencings.
Even with all this, Judge Bloom planned special events for us. She and her law clerks also helped us plan a dessert reception, a sweet meet, and movie nights to get to know other judges, law clerks and interns in each courthouse. We had the dessert reception early in the summer and every other Tuesday night we invited interns to join us in watching law-related movies such as Paper Chase, Twelve Angry Men, Run Away Jury and My Cousin Vinny. We also had a sweet meet where we brought in Judge Robin Rosenbaum, United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
As you can see, I could go on forever about my amazing experience but I suggest taking the time to work for a judge at some point during your law school career. Not only will you learn about the law and work on real cases, but many judges make it their mission to help you learn and to show you as much as possible both inside and outside of their courtroom and chambers.
Marianna Seiler, 3L
Our interviewer, Marianna Seiler is a third-year law student at Florida State University College of Law with interest in corporate law. Courtney Cahill is the Donald Hinkle Professor. Professor Cahill writes at the intersection of constitutional law and sexuality and the law. Her academic writings reflect an interdisciplinary approach that draws extensively from moral/cognitive psychology and literary theory. Her current work focuses on law and the emotions, and specifically on law and the emotion of disgust. She is particularly interested in bringing a new perspective to bear on the legal and social debates surrounding same-sex relationships and reproductive rights by combining the insights of constitutional theory and cognitive psychology.
Marianna Seiler: What made you decide to attend law school?
Professor Cahill: A good friend of mine who was getting his Ph.D. in English was exploring the teaching market. I asked him how the market was and how the interview process was going and he responded, “It is not going. I have applied to law school.” I said, “Are you kidding me? Why would you do that?” He thought that the humanities had gotten insular and if he became a law professor he would be able to teach a wider variety of things. So, I envisioned myself having to teach big survey courses on literature, specifically English literature, and with a degree in Italian literature it seemed that that would have been hard to do. Law professors have a luxury of being generalists, so I started looking into law schools and the rest is history.
Marianna Seiler: What is your favorite topic to write, research and theorize about and what work are you most proud of?
Professor Cahill: My favorite topic is right at the intersection where constitutional law meets family law. The research I like best tries to use other disciplines like literature, cognitive science and social psychology to illuminate issues that conventional legal analysis might miss. In that regard, I have done some work on some of the rhetoric that surfaced in the debate surrounding same-sex marriage. For example, the rhetoric of the slippery slope argument related to same-sex marriage leading to something very bad. I have done some literary examinations of that metaphor and that is the work I enjoy doing the most.
Marianna Seiler: What was your favorite subject in law school?
Professor Cahill: It may be surprising, but I loved evidence. It was mathematical in a way that appealed to me. Constitutional law and family law were not completely unlike literature. There was a lot of overlap in the way you think, like big picture ideas. But evidence was very elemental and that really appealed to me. The biggest regret I have in law school was never taking tax because I think that would have appealed to me as well.
Marianna Seiler: Why did you choose to move to Tallahassee?
Professor Cahill: I was fairly settled living in Rhode Island and teaching at Roger Williams University. My parents live in Rhode Island and it was nice to be near them. I had bought my dream house on a lake and had told myself that I was never going to leave that house. Then the Florida State University College of Law Appointments Committee called me in July one summer and asked if I was interested in a position. I was interested because I knew Professor Dan Markell, I knew that the faculty were seriously committed to scholarship and that Florida State was a solid law school. I thought this could be a great opportunity and I figured it would not hurt to interview. When I came I was so impressed by the students and the faculty, so now I am here.
Marianna Seiler: What do you like most about Florida State Law?
Professor Cahill: The students are great and the administration goes beyond the call of duty to satisfy every constituency – the students, the faculty and the alumni. The faculty is extraordinarily committed to the same ideal of teaching and scholarship.
Marianna Seiler: What do you do in your free time in Tallahassee?
Professor Cahill: I love doing yoga. I love reading. I have two young daughters and I spend as much time as I can with my kids. I always tell my students that from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. weekdays I go dark and that is family time.
Marianna Seiler: Who is or was your favorite U.S. Supreme Court justice and why?
Professor Cahill: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. I met her once and was just blown away by her. She is so commanding, matter of fact, funny, charismatic and pragmatic. I met her at a law school event at the University of Toledo. We brought in a Supreme Court justice every year. One year we brought in Justice O’Connor and one year we brought in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is also amazing. I remember being drawn to Justice O’Connor. Her personality made a big impression on me.
Marianna Seiler: What is one thing people should know about you if they know nothing else?
Professor Cahill: I would say that my kids are my world.
Marianna Seiler: If you had to commit a crime what would it be?
Professor Cahill: Only because I teach this to my property students ad nauseam; I would trespass onto somebody else’s property to get something that was really valuable to me, like my Italian greyhounds. I actually have done this. In fact, I have trespassed onto Professor Shawn Bayern’s lawn to get one of my greyhounds.
Marianna Seiler: What is your best advice for a prospective or current law school student?
Professor Cahill: Be flexible and open-minded in terms of your job, where you see yourself and what your life could look like five, ten years down the road. I am saying this because I am not always very flexible, but many times things in life can change. There are so many contingencies that come along in life. Whether it is kids, a partner or a new job opportunity; things happen that you did not expect, so be open to the possibility of changing your plan.
Marianna Seiler, 3L
Courtney Cahill, Donald Hinkle Professor
Students interested in criminal law have many different opportunities to gain experience while in law school. Many Florida State University College of Law students take advantage of these opportunities to make themselves more competitive when seeking employment after law school. Whether prosecution or defense, public organization or private law firm, many different options exist, even within the same organization. Each of these five students had completely different summer experiences, and three of them were within the same organization – the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit of Florida.
Abby Altman, 3L
During the summer following my 1L year I participated in the Florida State University College of Law Criminal Externship program as a legal intern with the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Florida working primarily on criminal appeals cases. Through the externship program I was able to immerse myself in the criminal law world while also establishing a professional relationship with my faculty advisor, Professor Krieger.
I was initially anxious about my externship because I was not really sure about what to expect. I quickly realized that my first-year courses had prepared me very well. Confidence gained at networking noshes and by participating in oral arguments in my legal writing classes allowed me to feel comfortable and prepared me immensely for this professional experience. The skills I learned also became immediately relevant. The attorney I was paired with assigned me to draft different motions and responses each day. He was also eager to help me develop different legal arguments in support of the State’s cases, allowed me to sit with him at the bench in court, and let me take advantage of opportunities to shadow other attorneys in the office and watch any case in court that interested me.
As part of the externship program I also submitted a weekly journal detailing my experiences as well as how I was feeling throughout the entire experience. Professor Krieger addressed every one of my journal entries and made sure that I was happy and comfortable with my placement. He also provided articles every few weeks that addressed different concerns in the work place as well as mental health issues in the legal world. I summarized the articles, detailed my personal experiences and submitted my responses. I truly appreciated the resource Professor Krieger was throughout the summer. I truly appreciated having a faculty member who was genuinely concerned about whether or not I was enjoying my externship placement and that I was getting to experience everything I wanted to during my placement.
Justin Schneider, Class of 2016
During the summer after my 2L year, I worked as a Certified Legal Intern (CLI) with the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Florida in the County Court, Misdemeanor Division. Being a CLI allowed me to do anything a practicing attorney could do as long as I was being supervised by a practicing attorney. This allowed me to speak to prosecute cases, speak to a judge on record, and argue my position in court. I chose the misdemeanor division specifically because it allowed me to argue cases in front of a jury and to speak on the record. I also had the opportunity to conduct all parts of a trial, which is uncommon, even for CLI’s.
Every day was a different challenge and was more exciting than the day prior. Four out of five days each week I spent some time in court. On a typical day I spent my first hour reviewing files and was in court with my supervising attorney by 9:00 a.m. as the judges would take the bench. While in court, I would present cases to the judge and defendant on behalf of the State of Florida and, when applicable, offer plea deals. On these days I presented anywhere from 30-50 cases and would then return to my office to work my files. On actual trial days, usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I would be in the courtroom during the proceedings trying cases against licensed attorneys which included arguing motions, arguing case law, and interviewing and cross examining witnesses. When trials were not scheduled, I would spend my time reviewing cases, researching legal issues and case law, contacting officers and witnesses, making plea offers, ordering and filing discovery and working with defense attorneys to get them to accept my plea deals.
A common misconception that people have regarding criminal cases is preparation time. Most people think that attorneys prepare for months or years for cases, which can be true. However, sometimes I was given a case set for trial with only a few hours to prepare. In these instances, the attorney would sit me down and go over the facts of the case with me. The licensed attorneys would have already done the preparation work for the trial and then they would let me try it. I also had my own cases that I had to prepare for as well, but because I was only there for the summer, I definitely did not have months or years to prepare. All in all, I got to try several jury trials and several bench trials. This experienced was unmatched and it really gave me an opportunity to use the skills I had learned and hone these skills for the future.
Betsy Whittinghill, Class of 2016
During the summer after my 2L year I was employed at a criminal defense law firm. I found the position through the Placement Office’s online job postings. During my time there I wrote numerous motions and pleadings and did countless hours of legal research. Because the firm was small, I also received personalized feedback and guidance on a regular basis and my supervisor was able to take on the role of mentor. I also had the opportunity to accompany my supervisor to several hearings, trials and depositions. This was a rewarding experience and I will be pursuing a career in criminal law.
Catherine Lockhart, 3L
I spent the summer after my 1L year interning at the State Attorney’s Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, Florida. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. As someone who is interested in criminal law, and aspires to be a prosecutor, I could not have spent my summer in a more fascinating and informative way. I worked under an amazing assistant state attorney who was also the felony division head. I was able to view cases from an insider’s perspective through the prosecution of violent crimes that had occurred in the Tallahassee community. I not only gained additional experience in legal research, but also had the opportunity to view the criminal justice system up close.
The legal writing and research courses at the College of Law really helped prepare me for this experience and truly expanded the scope of my research skills. It taught me to be a faster and more efficient researcher regardless of whether or not I had a few hours, a day or two, or a month to prepare for a case. The best part of my internship was being able to work closely with my supervising attorney and with the other prosecutors in the office. They took time from their very busy days to show me their process and to answer all of my questions. I even had the opportunity to visit the Tallahassee Police Department and was able to interact with investigating officers in order to see how the legal process works before a defendant ever reaches the courtroom.
Being able to view evidence and interact directly with witnesses also helped me better understand the trial process. Much of my time was spent watching trials and observing how the prosecution and defense interacted with the witnesses, the judge, the jury, and how they each presented evidence. After observing everything from voir dire (the questioning of prospective jurors) to sentencing, I was able to piece together a more complete picture of the criminal justice system.
Shelby Loveless, Class of 2016
In February of my 2L year I was researching opportunities to gain work experience over the summer and received an e-mail from the Externship Office related to an available position with the United States (U.S.) Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee. While viewing their website, I was drawn to the “News” feed about criminals who had recently been sentenced and immediately proceeded to apply for the externship. Once I was accepted I sent in my application packet to the Department of Justice. After patiently waiting, I eventually received my Notice of Clearance and was ready to start my externship.
My first day was both exciting and intimidating. Walking into the Federal Courthouse, which is within walking distance of the College of Law, my heart began pounding as the security guards looked at me suspiciously. Upon arrival, my supervisor and I met, he took me around the office to meet everyone and he told me a little bit about each of the attorneys. This really calmed my nerves because the more people I met, the more I noticed how friendly everyone was.
Throughout the summer I worked on various aspects of a federal criminal cases. I researched topics ranging from interpretation of statutes to factual nuances. I drafted sample indictments and sentencing memorandums. I drafted an appellate brief dealing with amendments to sentencing guidelines. Overall, I received a well-rounded introduction into how diverse the position of an Assistant United States Attorney really is. My law school coursework prepared me for everything that was thrown at me. From Evidence to Criminal Procedure to Professional Responsibility, I realized all of the suggested courses I packed into my 2L year had been worth it and I would not have made it through this experience without them.
Another aspect of the externship that was invaluable was the easy access to court proceedings. The United States Attorney’s Office is housed in the Courthouse, so I could easily walk downstairs 10 minutes before each hearing. Over the course of nine weeks I saw multiple first appearances, bail hearings, probation revocation hearings, a trial, jury selection, sentencing and much more. Every time I entered the courtroom, I would see something an attorney did that I could learn from or something I knew I never wanted to say or do. All of the United States attorneys were consistently prepared, were wonderful orators and excellent advocates for the U.S. Government.
I had no idea just how rewarding this experience would be. I also never thought I would have so much autonomy with the assignments and feedback from the attorneys. I always had an attorney who would talk with me about an issue, let me sit in on a meeting or discuss law school with me. I came away from the experience with more knowledge about legal issues, more confidence in my abilities and a multitude of great professional connections. I highly recommend this externship to anyone who is interested in criminal law and the federal court system.
Abby Altman, 3L
Justin Schneider, Class of 2016
Betsy Whittinghill, Class of 2016
Catherine Lockhart, 3L
Shelby Loveless, Class of 2016
Our interviewer, Alex Sarsfield, is a third-year law student at Florida State University College of Law with interest in legislation, government, lobbying, litigation, international affairs and business. Mark B. Seidenfeld is the Patricia A. Dore Professor of Administrative Law and Associate Dean of Research. He is recognized as one of the country’s leading scholars on federal administrative law. Professor Seidenfeld teaches courses in administrative law, constitutional law, environmental law, law and economics and regulated industries. His prior legal experience includes clerking for the Honorable Patricia Wald of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and serving as Assistant Counsel for the New York State Public Service Commission.
Alex Sarsfield: What is your favorite thing about teaching at Florida State University College of Law?
Professor Seidenfeld: I think the academic community is unique and wonderful. My feeling, and I sense it is the feeling of others, is that the students, faculty and staff at the College of Law like being here and feel themselves to be an integral part of a wonderful place. Students often pop into my office and we discuss law, law school, and the world in general. My colleagues often meet for lunch and discuss similar topics. Everyone is ambitious, but not at the expense of others.
Alex Sarsfield: You were a physicist prior to attending law school at Stanford University. What brought you to law?
Professor Seidenfeld: I hit a point during graduate school when my Ph.D. dissertation was not working and I became disillusioned with physics as a profession. I then became a research physicist and engineer at Intel, where I was successful, but never really loved the applied work I was doing. I did not know what I wanted to do but many of my high school friends had gone to law school and their stories of their experiences were interesting. I have a patent that I got at Intel and I thought I would be a patent attorney, but when I got to law school I developed a keen interest in how government operates.
Alex Sarsfield: Why are you interested in administrative law?
Professor Seidenfeld: As noted, I became interested in how government operates and my limited knowledge of civics did not prepare me for the realities of the administrative state. So much happens in government that is not explicit in the structure of the Constitution and I am interested in why that is so. I think that the administrative state holds the best promise for government serving the public interest. Administrative law deals with how the law can and should be structured to fulfill that promise without falling into pitfalls of agency sloth, capture or abusive self-interested.
Alex Sarsfield: What are the biggest advantages that the College of Law has over other law schools in Florida?
Professor Seidenfeld: A phenomenal faculty and ethos that focuses on faculty teaching and serving the needs of students without dumbing down their courses. The faculty presents its cutting edge work to students who appreciate that the education they are getting will prepare them to think, and therefore be successful, in a quickly changing legal market. The education at Florida State University College of Law is on par with that provided by the best law schools in the country. In addition, for my interest in how government operates, Tallahassee, being the state capital of the one of the four largest states in the U.S., provides many opportunities to learn in a locale that is very livable.
Alex Sarsfield: How can attending Florida State University College of Law prepare students for jobs outside of Florida?
Professor Seidenfeld: A good law school does not teach students the law. It teaches students to think like a good lawyer. Florida State University College of Law excels at this task. These skills allow graduates to practice law anywhere, regardless of whether the legal doctrines and rules are the ones they studied in law school. We prepare students to practice not only in Florida, but in Atlanta, New York, Washington D.C., London, Europe, South America or virtually anywhere in the world.
Alex Sarsfield: What is the most important habit or trait for a person entering law school?
Professor Seidenfeld: To think critically!
Alex Sarsfield: What extracurricular activities do you recommend to maximize one’s experience while in law school?
Professor Seidenfeld: Whatever you like, as long as it is legal and does not hurt others.
Alex Sarsfield: Why did you decide on a career in academia rather than work for a large law firm in the private sector?
Professor Seidenfeld: I like to think about the big questions in law, to discuss them with others and to communicate my thoughts with students and colleagues. That not only led me to the legal academy, it is what has made me so happy to be at Florida State.
Alex Sarsfield: What advice would you give students upon graduation from law school?
Professor Seidenfeld: Try to find a job that you enjoy. Of course it has to pay enough to support the lifestyle the student wants, but life is too short to be stuck in a job for 40 years that one does not like just to make a few extra bucks.
Alex Sarsfield, 3L
Mark B. Seidenfeld, Patricia A. Dore Professor of Administrative Law and Associate Dean for Research
It has been over a year now, but I can still remember the thoughts that consumed my mind after completing the last final examination of my 1L spring semester: “First year of law school down, no more stress for three months!” Excitedly, I tossed my books aside, packed my things, and headed home to sunny South Florida. Beaming hot sun, breezes from the ocean and a nice iced coffee were on my mind, but so was my opportunity to start experiencing law in the real world!
Summer can be a nice time to kick back and relax, but my goals included more than just getting a good tan. Every day for six weeks I spent my days working in the Broward County Courthouse interning with the Honorable Judge Stacey Schulman of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit. Judge Schulman presides over dependency proceedings involving children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
After spending some time getting acquainted with my surroundings and getting a sense of what I would be doing, I began observing actual shelter hearings. Shelter hearings are those held within twenty-four hours of a child’s removal from their parents’ custody. The purpose of these hearings is for a judge to determine whether or not there was sufficient probable cause and if removal is appropriate. I found these hearings to be very interesting because I was able to observe dependency cases from the beginning.
Observing dependency cases also gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about juvenile delinquency. Broward County has a unified family court system where one judge will hear all matters related to a single case that involves a family. So, whenever Judge Schulman is assigned a dependency case that involves a child who has committed delinquent acts, she also presides over the delinquency hearings.
Upon returning to my law school classes in the fall, I found my lectures to be more interesting and engaging than ever before. One example was in Evidence where I was able to directly apply my readings for class to the actual cases I had witnessed over the summer.
My summer internship also gave me the opportunity to established valuable relationships with judges, staff, attorneys and other interns that I will continue to benefit from in my legal career. I am so thankful that I was able to take advantage of this opportunity. I encourage all current and incoming law students to take the opportunity to use their summers to get some legal experience, whether through internships, externships or clinics. There is no doubt that the experience will be educational and rewarding and will help you build your network!
Amanda Qadri, 3L
Our interviewer, Beatriz Elizabeth Benitez, is a second-year law student interested in corporate law at Florida State University College of Law. Kelli Alces Williams is the Loula Fuller and Dan Myers Professor at Florida State and her scholarly work focuses primarily on corporate governance. She has taught at the University of Richmond School of Law, University of Iowa College of Law, George Mason University School of Law, University of Chicago Law School and is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law. Professor Williams teaches Property, Corporations, Securities Regulation, Bankruptcy and Contracts.
Beatriz Benitez: How did you originally get interested in business law?
Professor Williams: I started out in law school wanting to do child advocacy and one of our first legal writing projects was on divorce. After seeing what people do to each other in divorces, I figured that family law was not going to work for me and I really liked my business law classes like contracts and property. So, I took more classes in that area and enjoyed the types of questions business law posed.
Beatriz Benitez: Why Florida State? How did you end up teaching here and what has kept you here?
Professor Williams: This is one of the schools that I really liked from the beginning of my teaching career. The faculty has a strong scholarly reputation, it was in the southeast and I was familiar with the area. When I came to interview it felt like a good fit and it was a place I wanted to come back to. It was an up-and-coming school with a lot of potential. It was exciting, and still is exciting, to be a part of that.
Beatriz Benitez: What are some of the differences you have found teaching in a smaller town versus teaching in a big city like Chicago?
Professor Williams: Our students are great! They are very interested, engaged in class and interesting. Our students are more laid back than what I have seen of students in bigger cities, who tend to be a little more intense.
Beatriz Benitez: What advice do you have for students deciding to attend law school or in choosing a law school? What do you think are some of the important factors you considered or have found important in choosing a law school?
Professor Williams: I thought I went into law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do and I changed my mind. I was looking for what I thought I needed based on what I thought I wanted to do. I ended up choosing a school that gave me a well-rounded program and that ended up being a good choice. I have come to understand that all but a few law schools are largely regional schools. I had not realized how insular legal markets are and how hard it can be to break into a legal market without an alumni presence from your law school. You should think carefully about where you want to work when choosing where you want to go to law school.
Beatriz Benitez: What was your 1L year like?
Professor Williams: I was really anxious because I did not know how I was doing and at the beginning of my first semester I did not know what I was supposed to do. The hardest part was the uncertainty. Listening to professors’ questions and seeing if I knew the answer was my way of knowing whether I was on track. I really felt like class discussion was the only way I knew if I was getting what I was supposed to be getting out of the material.
Beatriz Benitez: Any key advice for what helped you survive the transition to law school and your 1L year?
Professor Williams: Try really hard to keep in touch with your closest friends and family even if it means you have to schedule times to talk to people. You really need a support network.
Beatriz Benitez: I know you always tell us in class to eat cake to get through tough the times, but what do you do during times of stress?
Professor Williams: Yoga. Walking. My dad is a law professor so it is great to be able to talk to him about work-related stuff. My best friend from middle school is great because I can always talk to her about anything else. Having the constant, steady support of my husband at home is comforting. Having people to talk to about work and other people to talk to about anything but work is a good strategy.
Beatriz Benitez: What are three things you cannot live without?
Professor Williams: 1. Decaffeinated tea–on vacation I take tea bags with me. 2. An afternoon nap–I am a napper since I do not drink caffeine. 3. Dark chocolate covered almonds–this is how I overcome my cake cravings.
Beatriz Benitez: If you got stuck on an island and could only eat two things for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Professor Williams: Dark chocolate covered almonds and Cuban beef stew. The almonds are my little dessert vacation at the end of the day. The Cuban beef stew is delicious and healthy and comforting all at once.
Beatriz Benitez: What is your favorite season/holiday and why?
Professor Williams: Fall is my favorite season because I like the weather getting cooler and I am less allergic to fall than I am to spring. Christmas is my favorite holiday because my birthday is a week before, so it is just a fun, festive time of year. I get really excited about shopping for Christmas gifts for my friends and family and for less fortunate children in the community. It is fun to try to make magic happen for people at that time of year.
Beatriz Elizabeth Benitez, 2L
Kelli Alces Williams, Loula Fuller and Dan Myers Professor
Balancing A Summer with Both Legal Experience and a Learning Experience Through Study Abroad Can Be Done…and Can Be Rewarding
Taking advantage of opportunities as a law student should include your summer months as well as the fall and spring semesters. Last summer, the College of Law students below took this to heart for the summer between their 1L and 2L years. Each participated in a legal program, internship or job during the first part of their summer and then spent the second part as participants in Florida State University College of Law’s Summer Program in Law at Oxford.
First Part – Experience
I spent the first part of my summer last year interning with a judge in Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach, Florida. Having participated as a member of the Moot Court team, I was very interested in exploring appellate advocacy and this internship gave me exposure to appellate work from a judge’s perspective. I was challenged by exposure to cases in areas I had not yet studied and by having to help serve as the decision maker when weighing both sides of an argument instead of just playing the role of an advocate for one side. This opportunity really helped me recognize the importance of being flexible.
I never imagined I would be spending my first law school summer working with a judge, but I definitely learned how important networking and having an open mind can be. I also had not realized just how small the legal community was in South Florida. I discovered this opportunity through a family member of a friend of a friend who had heard that I was in law school and asked the judge about having a summer intern. I also assumed that I would be spending this time at home in Miami and the idea of an internship in a neighboring county was not something I had event considered.
Last summer I was lucky enough to have three weeks off before I had to be back in Tallahassee to work on the Florida State University Summer for Undergraduates Program (SUG). So, after the spring semester I went back home, visited family, took a trip to Disney World and went out on the boat. Basically, I did everything other than studying.
When I returned to Tallahassee, I was met by 60+ undergraduate students from all over the country. SUG puts these students through a four-week, full-immersive law school program. Participants take classes with law school professors, attend presentations from lawyers practicing in various areas, hear from different campus offices about preparing for law school and even visit brick and mortar law firms all over the city. In my role, I mentored student participants, helped facilitate the running of the program and had a great time doing it.
Last summer I worked for a law firm that handled personal injury cases. Being very interested in this area, I could not wait to get started and get some exposure to in this area. Fortunately, I got that and so much more! I attended depositions and mediations and performed research in multiple areas of law, including areas that I was not familiar. What I discovered by doing this was that there are other areas that interest me, including labor and employment law and commercial litigation. Following this experience my advice to anyone studying law is to not be afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone, even if you already think you know exactly what area you want to practice. It cannot hurt and will either help confirm your choice or open your eyes to other possibilities.
In the first part of my summer last year I worked as an intern for a county criminal judge. Interning for a judge was surprisingly fun. For someone who is not from a family of legal professionals this was a great opportunity to see what occurs both inside and outside of the courtroom. It also offered tremendous insight into the work of prosecutors, defense attorneys (both private and public), the trial process in general and some of the legal issues that arise. During this time I was able to conduct legal research and even wrote a judicial order.
Second Part – Summer Program in Law at Oxford
I spent the latter part of my summer as a participant in the Summer Program in Law at Oxford. As optimistic and open as I am, I was at first concerned about traveling so far from home to take classes at Oxford. I now know I had nothing at all to worry about. There is something wonderful about being taken out of your comfort zone and becoming the foreigner in another place. I learned a lot about myself, the culture of England and others. I even expanded my role as the international traveler by visiting France and Italy as well. The program itself is truly amazing, well organized and I experienced some great professors and classes.
I will never forget my time spent in Oxford. While there I enjoyed my 23rd birthday, cut my hair, discovered that shopping in the UK is absolutely wonderful, and learned new lingo. It all came to an end much too early and I was not ready to go, but I definitely left with a greater appreciation for life.
The second, and best part of my summer was studying abroad as a participant in the Summer Program in Law at Oxford. One of my fellow law student and I went over early, flew into Rome, and spent nine days traveling around Italy before eventually making our way to Oxford. Once there, it was hard to differentiate between class work and a vacation. Oxford is easily one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. Every day was like waking up and going to class in a castle. We took courses from Oxford Dons and College of Law professors. It was a six-week program and I can say without a doubt, was one of the best six weeks of my life. From exploring the City of Oxford and seeing a Shakespearean play in Stratford-upon-Avon, to sightseeing in London and learning about English legal history, it was an unforgettable summer.
The second half of my summer was definitely an experience I will truly never forget, as I spent it as a participant in the Summer Program in Law at Oxford. Not only did I get to travel to four countries I had never visited before, but I also took classes with actual Oxford Dons and with our very own Professor Téson. Throughout this experience I was able to travel while also learning about the different legal systems of the countries I visited. Two of the courses I really enjoyed were English Legal History and European Union Law. I had never studied abroad or even traveled abroad before, so I was thankful for the opportunity and am so glad that I decided to do it. I know this experience will truly be invaluable for me now and in the future.
The rest of my summer was spent abroad as a participant in the Summer Program in Law at Oxford. For anyone looking for adventure, while earning college credit, this is a great program. It is also an excellent opportunity for anyone who has not traveled abroad before. Not only do you get to stay at the world-renowned Oxford University, but the program also provides for and encourages travel and exploration outside of Oxford. While gaining exposure to a different culture and experiencing England’s rich history first-hand, I also was able to make new friends and amass some unforgettable memories.
I began last summer concerned that about prospects for landing a job after graduation. I ended the summer with new legal knowledge, a wealth of cultural experiences and assurance that I was going down the right path for my legal career.
When I finished my final law school examination last spring, a grueling 3-hour experiences that left me dazed and confused, I spent the rest of that day watching reruns of The Office and eating BOGO Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream I had purchased from Publix. At that time I had a lot to look forward to during the summer, but it was not as clear to me then. By the conclusion of summer I had come to realized just how valuable my summer experiences had been and just how much I had enjoyed them all.
Last summer was a period of growth for me in more ways than one. I have normally been someone who has every aspect of my life planned out in advance. This included choosing the path to law school early and not looking back. However, my experiences last summer helped me realize how important it is to be flexible. Before summer I thought I would practice civil litigation law, and specifically personal injury law. My overall summer experience working, traveling and learning about other areas of law opened my eyes to options I may not have considered before. It also got me to start asking; “How can we know what we really enjoy if we do not explore other options?”
I am extremely lucky to have been able to participate in the opportunities I did last summer. I encourage anyone thinking about what to do during the summer to explore your options and secure an opportunity (or opportunities). For me the process started immediately after the fall semester and final plans did not materialize until almost the end of the spring semester. I sent in many applications to different jobs and summer programs and most were denied. However, it all turned out to my satisfaction and was a very rewarding summer.
Aquellah Mitchell, 2L
Grey Dodge, 2L
Lauren Thompson, 2L
Rob Sylvester, 2L
After my first year of law school I was very happy with how everything had turned out. I had been elected vice president of our Black Law Students Association (BLSA), had worked as a Student Ambassador since the beginning of the spring semester and I had been crowned Miss Tallahassee. On top of that, I was pleased with my academic performance and was active in my church. However, we were told that legal experience, employment and networking during the summer were important, even if we were taking some classes, so landing a summer job was high on my list of priorities.
While I explored different options, I did not have much luck at first. I participated in an on-campus interview (OCI) with one law firm and thought my interview went great. This was reinforced by the fact that I received a thank you note from the attorney that interviewed me even before I had the chance to send one. I did not get the job, though. I had also met an attorney from the sports industry at an organization lunch during the school year who encouraged me to apply for their summer internship opportunities. He had even offered to walk my resume into their hiring department himself and another contact of mine had arranged for me to talk to the company vice president. I thought I had that one in the bag until I received the rejection letter a month later.
By this point I was really discouraged. I did not understand why I was not getting any offers. I felt like I had the grades, the personality and enough documented leadership and involvement to qualify me for jobs in a variety of areas. So, I decided to enroll in a summer law class and began the on-line event management program offered through the Graduate School at Florida State.
A few weeks later, I was encouraged by Dean Ingram in our Office of Student Affairs to apply for a positions as a mentor for the Florida State University College of Law Summer for Undergraduates (SUG) Program. I submitted the application and got the job. I was very excited because the job included event planning, working with undergraduate students and they were going to pay me! Knowing that it would only be for four weeks, I continued my job search for something to do for the rest of the summer after the program ended.
I really enjoyed my time as a mentor for SUG. I was able to interact with faculty, staff, prospective and current students and even a lot of distinguished alumni who came to visit with the students. So, it also became an opportunity to grow my legal network and gain new perspectives on how to approach my legal education. I also participated in behind-the-scenes tours of the Florida Capitol, seminars with alumni and attorneys and luncheons with faculty and College of Law deans. By chance, I ended up having a conversation with one of my first year professors that turned into an offer to work for him as a research assistant after SUG ended.
I was also offered a job clerking for my BLSA Mock Trial Coach at the Florida Department of Business and Regulation (DBPR) Office of the General Counsel. I started working there too after SUG ended and got a lot of experience drafting administrative complaints, closing orders, motions, correspondence and other legal documents.
As it turns out, my first law school summer ended up being full of many different experiences that were applicable to various areas of my life and future legal career. After the summer ended, I continued working at DBPR and also started working as an assistant to the Director of Membership and Marketing at the Tallahassee Museum.
If you do not get that dream job you thought you would for the summer, do not give up! Just remember that there are other options out there, so keep trying and be open to opportunities you might not have first considered. If your experience is anything like mine, the opportunities you land just might end up being more valuable to you than the one you wanted.
Lauryn A. Collier, 2L