Externship Opportunities…Just Extraordinary!

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!

??????????????????????????????????? Brandon G. Little, 2L

My Unexpected Journey to Family Law

I suspect that many law students do not have a clue about what they want to do when they grow up, and those who think they know often change their minds. The important thing is to have a law school experience that helps you make the right decision for yourself. Sometimes it comes from the classes you love and sometimes the classes you did not think you would like turn out to be the most valuable. It can even come from the people you meet or the organizations you join. Either way, try different things before narrowing down your areas of interest and most importantly, remember to keep an open mind!

When I first came to law school I thought I knew exactly what type of law I wanted to practice.  I just knew I wanted to be an international lawyer. I wanted to be involved in international trade with a Chinese company. As an undergraduate, I spent my summers in China and even minored in Chinese. I was definitely on the international track. During the fall semester of my 2L year my focus began to change and my current career path could not have been further from international trade law. From that point I began to develop an interest in family law and now that I have graduated I will be working in a law firm handling domestic relations cases.

As I prepared for the fall semester of my 2L year, I enrolled in two classes, International Trade and Family Law. I learned very quickly that I did not have an interest in the business aspects of international law, but to my surprise, I loved my Family Law class. Professor Cahill taught the course and she was fantastic! The material was interesting, really grabbed my attention, and I started thinking that family law might be for me. Fast-forward to the spring semester of my 3L year, and I enrolled in the Public Interest Law Center’s Family Law Clinic, which provided me with the opportunity to practice with actual cases before I graduated. While I was working under the supervision of an attorney, the clients and the cases were mine and I handled each of them from the initial interview through the final hearing. I cannot say enough about what a great opportunity this was to get hands-on experience!

Another great opportunity was the Mock Trial Team. As someone who will be directly advocating for clients, this experience was huge for me. Mock Trial is basically a group of students who work on teams and simulate a trial. There is a plaintiff (or prosecution), a defense team, and participants make opening statements, examine witnesses, argue evidence, and offer closing arguments. While I never really saw myself as a trial lawyer, I now know that after this experience I have the tools to enter any courtroom and hold my own.

Some people really have a calling for what they want to do, and that is great. If you do not know, one of the best ways to help you decide is to try different things. There are plenty of courses offered at Florida State University College of Law each semester, as well as many activities and organizations you can participate in that will help you determine where you might fit. Even though I thought I knew what I wanted to do, I took a wide range of classes and became involved in different areas. I think all of these experiences were very important in helping me determine what I really wanted to do as well as what my future career will be.

Image Melissa Sinor, Class of 2014

An Interview with Professor Hannah Wiseman

I am Ryan McCarville, and I am a student at the Florida State University College of Law. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Hannah Wiseman and ask her about how she got started working in the area of environmental law, about her research related to hydraulic fracturing, and what advice she might have for current and prospective law students interested in studying environmental law.

Ryan McCarville: Can you give us a little background on your legal education, and research interests? How did you first get started with environmental issues?

Professor Hannah Wiseman: Ever since I was in elementary school I have been interested in environmental issues. I went to Dartmouth College and majored in Environmental Studies and Comparative Government. From there I became an environmental consultant in Washington, D.C. for a couple of years and then went to Yale Law School, where I took a lot of environmental classes. I became very interested in the environmental aspects of energy in my jobs in Texas. I first worked for a federal judge in the 5th Circuit in Texas, and then became a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. It was there when I began to see the connections between energy and environmental law, because there were a lot of oil and gas developments, as well as wind energy developments. That was my first teaching job in Texas, and then I became a professor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I had my students write a model wind energy code. Then I came to Florida State where I teach land use law, renewable energy law, environmental law, and occasionally, hydraulic fracturing law.

Ryan McCarville: You mentioned hydraulic fracturing. When did you first find that you were interested in this specific area of the law?

Professor Hannah Wiseman: I became interested in hydraulic fracturing in 2008, in Texas, when the Texas Supreme Court had a case which dealt with all the issues that interest me. This case was about when a person drills into the ground and hydraulically fractures the ground of someone else’s property, takes their natural gas, and whether that is a trespass or not. For me, that raised issues of land use, energy, property, as well as environmental concerns. The court on the one hand wanted to support energy development, as well as the rights of neighboring land owners who might not want their land being drilled, as well as the environmental consequences involved with this process. This case made me realize that this particular issue was at the center of all my interests. After the case, I spoke to the attorney that represented the neighboring landowners whose ground was being drilled. After speaking with him about his experience, I started looking at this issue around the country, and I realized that it was going to be big at the national level. In 2008, not many people had noticed that beyond the Texas Supreme Court. But looking around, in places like Pennsylvania, the technique had been used quite commonly, as well as North Dakota and Montana, but no one was really talking about it. Since then I have been writing about it, attending conferences, and talking to state regulators. The topic has completely captured my interest.

Ryan McCarville: What does the state of hydraulic fracturing look like now? Where do you see it going in the next 5, 10, or 20 years?

Professor Hannah Wiseman: By 2011, people had been talking more and more about hydraulic fracturing. At that point, the type of hydraulic fracturing that has allowed the energy boom that people have enjoyed around the U.S. was happening in states like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, lots of states. More people were paying attention. The current status is that it is very common in this country. About 11,000 new wells are being drilled every year. There will be more than 70,000 new wells fractured in coming years and it has changed our country’s economy. I don’t see this ebbing. I think we will continue to see the expansion of this technique, maybe even in Florida. It will continue to raise environmental and social issues, positive and negative, and we will need lawyers to address these issues. There are more and more lawsuits about leasing issues, about property rights issues, and questions of potential contamination. There are many new environmental compliance jobs in this area.

Ryan McCarville: What sort of advice would you give to a student that is thinking about attending law school with the goal of pursuing a career in environmental law?

Professor Hannah Wiseman: I would look at the faculty, the specific experience of the faculty, as well as how involved the faculty is in local and national issues. You know, the rankings are a good proxy of our quality, but it is important to look past it. It is important to look at the range of experience by the faculty. For example, Shi-Ling Hsu is an economist, as well as climate change policy expert, and David Markell previously worked at the EPA, at a state environmental agency, as well as in Canada working on cross-border issues. So, look at the experience of the faculty, and the jobs they have held. The student activities are also very good to look at. At Florida State University, we have a great environmental certificate program, as well as a clinical externship program where students can receive wonderful on the job training and experience. The opportunity is unique to this town. We have externships with renewable energy developers, as well as agencies around Tallahassee which focus in environmental issues.

Ryan McCarville: In your opinion, why is Florida State University such a great place to study environmental law?

Professor Hannah Wiseman: Florida State University College of Law attracts both professors and students who are committed to the issues, who know a lot about the issues, and if they don’t – they will soon! It is a community of people with similar interests and similar concerns. For example, how much oil and gas development, or how much energy develop should we have? Being in the capital of Florida, we can continue to learn more and use our knowledge because environmental issues come up all the time, especially in the state agencies and the legislature. I think expertise and the interest feeds on itself and creates a community of learning that I do not find at other law schools.


McCarville, Ryan
-Ryan McCarville, 3L


-Hannah Wiseman, Assistant Professor, Florida State University College of Law

When One Country Can’t Hold All That Law

There has never been a better time to study international law at the Florida State University College of Law and as the chapter president of the International Law Students Association (ILSA), I have been in a unique position to see the work that has gone into expanding international programs here. It has been a rewarding experience witnessing these efforts throughout the College of Law as well as how they are producing results.

My organization, ILSA, is devoted to supporting, expanding and promoting the study of international law. The Chapter’s immediate past leadership did an amazing job laying the groundwork and foundations for this group, including nearly doubling the official membership, and we have taken that and run with it. In a similar fashion we have doubled the official membership from what we had last year. As a result, the student body here is fired up about the possibilities of augmenting their legal education with the tools to deal with an increasingly international, cosmopolitan legal community and business environment. 

Student interest would not amount to much without the support of the administration and College of Law faculty, and they have been overwhelmingly supportive. Our Dean for International Programs, David Landau, has been instrumental in providing opportunities, both old and new. One of the most recent has been the opportunity for College of Law students to assemble a team to compete in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court competition, one of the most prestigious international moot court competitions in the world. The competition focuses on disputes between companies across international boundaries and settling those disputes through arbitration, as opposed to litigation. Practice rounds are held in Florida but the competition itself takes place in Vienna, Austria. Five competitors are chosen and are flown there for the competition.

The College of Law also fields a Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court team every year. The competition focuses on disputes between countries that can involve anything from immigration issues to disappearing land masses.  No, really! The problem last year involved a country sinking into the sea, and determining what rights they have after that happens. This team also consists of five members and the team travels throughout the Southeast. The final round is being held in Washington, D.C. in front of justices from the International Court of Justice.

There are also exchange programs, externships (including one at the International Bar Association headquarters in London) and an array of study abroad options including options in Australia, China, England, and the Netherlands.  The most popular study abroad program is the Summer Program at Oxford, in England. I had the privilege of studying at Oxford last summer and it was an incomparable experience. Participants get to stay in the oldest hall on campus, St. Edmund Hall, which is gorgeous and right in the middle of historic Oxford. They also get to study under Oxford Dons (faculty) and take courses that are not offered in Tallahassee. 

In addition to the international program options already mentioned, the international law courses offered in the College of Law curriculum are diverse and very interesting. Some blend international law with other areas of law. Examples include Professor Landau’s International Arbitration and Litigation course, Professor Fernando Teson’s International Criminal Law course, and Professor Frederick Abbott’s International Aspects of Intellectual Property and Trade Law course. There are also courses in International Business Transactions, Immigration and Refugee Law, and International Environmental Law. 

All it takes is crossing a national border and instantly business, environmental, tax, criminal, or finance law becomes international law. I am getting an education to prepare me for those circumstances when my law firm or company has an international issue requiring someone who can adjust to the completely different rules and procedures. I believe that this will make me a more valuable asset to my employer. On top of that, it is fascinating to work with different laws, cultures, and customs.  Oh, and you have the opportunity to travel, and I love traveling.

If you want to learn more about international programs at the Florida State University College of Law, feel free to e-mail me at bay03@my.fsu. Cheers!

Image  – Bryan Yasinsac, 2L