Extraordinary! If I was asked to come up with one word to define my student experience at the Florida State University College of Law, it would have to be “extraordinary.” This school and its faculty, at least as far as every subject or department to which I have been exposed, are so far beyond what I ever would have or could have expected. Frankly, they exceeded “ordinary” before I ever even received my acceptance letter. Now that I have finished my first year of law school, and even after I have come to expect “extraordinary” as the norm, I have been absolutely blown away by the opportunities made available at the Florida State University College of Law – particularly through the externship program!
Approaching the summer after my 1L year, I had not yet received my Bar clearance to become a Certified Legal Intern (CLI), which is a credential required for several externships. I expect to receive my CLI authorization sometime this fall, but I knew it was important that I gain some experience in the interim. More to the point, I wanted REAL experience! I did not want to be a coffee-getter and copy-maker at some law firm. I did not want to be sidelined as an observer to a practice-based externship program with clients I could not advise or cases I could not argue because I did not yet have CLI clearance. I wanted to jump into the deep end of real-world legal practice and solve real problems for real people, and that is exactly what I did!
Between the Placement Office and Externship Office, the College of Law was instrumental in making that happen for me. They narrowed their catalog of hundreds of externships available coast-to-coast down to just those for which a non-CLI rising 2L would be eligible. I looked for something that would give me a more hands-on research and writing experience – the kind of thing that would put me in top contention for my dream job during the summer after my 2L year – and I found it! Actually, I found THEM!
I had my choice of externships doing real work on real cases for real people, without having to be a CLI. Ultimately, I settled on Legal Services of North Florida – a community-based non-profit organization offering legal services for people in need. I wanted to get a broad range of experience working in multiple areas of law, and that is precisely what I got with this opportunity. Over the course of my externship, I worked on cases ranging from landlord-tenant to domestic violence, divorce and child custody, bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, and everything in between. I used my legal knowledge, life experience, and creativity to plan and execute case strategies for the firm and its clients. I did the research. I wrote the motions. I filed the briefs.
It was pretty amazing, and it was real. When I helped stop an illegal eviction, I helped a family from being forced into homelessness. When I helped save a family’s home from foreclosure, they weren’t forced to seek shelter at the expense of their family, friends, and community. When I helped a victim break the cycle of domestic violence, I helped protect her and her child from further abuse and set them on a path to economic and social stability.
If I were to trace this invaluable opportunity back to its source, all the credit goes to Florida State University College of Law. Like I said before… Extraordinary!