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
Ever thought of turning your apartment into a UPS store? Spending at least half of your time on something other than schoolwork? Sending your information to as many as 100 different judges across the country?
Me either, until I decided to apply for federal clerkship positions. Federal judges start accepting applications over a year before you will actually start working. The application process starts in January of your 2L year and preparation may begin even sooner. If you are fortunate enough to land a federal clerkship you will also have to graduate from law school and pass a bar exam before starting.
Federal clerkships are extremely competitive positions, as the top students from every law school in the country are applying to fill one or two open positions with a limited number of federal judges who will have positions open. Florida State Law graduates are being hired for these positions, so it is not unrealistic to consider applying. The Florida State University College of Law also has a committee in place, specifically to help and guide students through the application process.
In considering if you should apply, you should answer the following questions. If you answer is yes to most, or all, then you should consider applying:
- Do you enjoy legal research?
- Do you enjoy legal writing?
- Are you interested in gaining a unique perspective of the legal system?
- Are you within the top 20% of your class?
- Are you a member of one of the law school’s journals?
- Do you have advocacy experience, either through participation in Mock Trial or Moot Court?
- Do you want to be able to put one of the most prestigious legal positions in the country on your resume?
Florida State University has various resources for students interested in applying for federal clerkships. The Clerkship Committee is comprised of extremely knowledgeable, patient, and helpful professors. The Placement Office will also review your resume and help you print mailing labels for your paper applications. The documents you will need for each application are:
- Cover letter
- Three letters of recommendation from College of Law professors
- A writing sample, about ten pages in length
If you think you have what it takes, definitely consider jumping in and applying for these opportunities. Good luck!
Melanie Kalmanson, 3L
Because I studied abroad during the summer after my first year of law school, the following summer was my first one spent right here in Tallahassee, Florida. Staying in Tallahassee for the summer provided me with some much needed rest and family time as I healed from knee surgery I underwent in the spring. As a student, I was also able to take advantage of Florida State University’s Fitness and Wellness Clinic, which assisted in my recovery and helped me get on a regular exercise regime. After recuperating, I ventured out to enjoy some of Tallahassee’s many great outdoor venues, including Tom Brown Park.
My summer in Tallahassee was also a great time to gain valuable legal experience. I continued with a part-time position alongside a family law practitioner with over 30 years of experience and clerked for a firm specializing in appellate law. These experiences provided me with opportunities to research some very novel areas of law, while simultaneously learning many of the practical ins-and-outs of operations within a law firm. I was also able to work with some great lawyers, who exemplified positive examples of what it takes to be legal practitioner. Ultimately, my summer assignments put my legal, research, writing and analytical skills to the test while allowing me to really appreciate just how much Florida State University College of Law was preparing me to participate and engage in the legal community.
While there are many reasons to be somewhere else during the summer, there are also a great many reasons to stick around and take advantage of opportunities right here in Tallahassee. As it turns out, last summer ended up being a great time for me to gain some valuable experience, start a new routine, and prepare for my exciting final year of law school at Florida State.
Nicholas G. Bush, 3L
It was just another Tuesday working at the Leon County Public Defender’s Office when a complete stranger got on the elevator with me. We exchanged pleasantries and right before she exited the elevator, she turned to me and said, “Make today great!” I stood there in silence and thought about those words, but at that moment I did not know that this small phrase would impact me so heavily.
Working at the public defender’s officer has been my most rewarding experience since coming to law school. Growing up in a house with two parents in law enforcement and countless cousins and uncles in the military, there was no hope for me to steer clear of criminal law. I always imagined I would eventually work as a prosecutor, but while in both college and law school, I began to notice my emotions and mindset drifted towards defense.
Taking a chance, I registered for the appropriate courses, participated in the Criminal Practice Clinic, and chose to complete my externship at the public defender’s office. I never would have guessed just how much I would grow to love the work and the people in the office. I represented real clients with real issues. Their personal liberty was at stake and it was my job to meticulously review their cases and make sure that the State of Florida and its actors had properly charged them.
My externship gave my law school education purpose and provided the “ah-ha” moment I had been waiting for to justify having chosen to attempt law school in the first place. Finding my purpose is like the feeling of finding a home. I will never forget the call I made to a client to let her know that the State received the motion I had written and would be dropping the charge against her. Her elation almost put me in tears. That euphoric feeling of helping someone else motivated me to do better, work harder, and “make today even greater”. Even though I experienced angry calls, and some clients who never returned my calls, a simple thank-you at the end of the day can make it all worth-while.
Brooke Tharpe, 3L