Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship. This is the eighth post in Susan’s outstanding series.
As my externship is coming to an end, I am very sad and I am also amazed. I am sad because I have met so many wonderful people that I have enjoyed working with and will miss seeing every week. I am also sad because I have enjoyed being in the criminal court system. It was wonderful to spend time in the environment in which I hope to work after graduation. It confirmed that I definitely want to be in the criminal court system as a prosecutor, and it only made me more excited to get started in my new career.
I am also amazed at how much I have learned. I set three goals for myself at the beginning of the externship, hoping to achieve some knowledge in each area. The first goal I set was to observe different attorneys to learn skills of effective persuasion in a trial. In my externship, I have seen several attorneys in many different types of trials including civil and criminal. I was also able to observe five different prosecuting attorneys in different trials. It was a wonderful opportunity to see so many different styles and skills of all of the attorneys. Not only did I learn skills of effective persuasion, I realized that effective skills come in many different styles and personalities. Each attorney had their own unique way of arguing and persuading, and I was able to observe many different approaches.
The second goal I set was to gain a basic understanding of the court documents and the paper flow in the court system. By digging into the files and doing my research project, I became more famililar with the paperwork and the filing system used. But I also learned the human side of the paper process. I delivered current court documents to staff during the day as as they were needed. This allowed me to get to know all the individuals and their roles in the paper flow. There are so many people involved, each playing a crucial role. I gained an appreciation for the number of people it takes to process and file all of the many documents into the correct files.
My last goal was simply to meet people in the criminal court system. When I first set this goal, I only thought of it in terms of the people that work in the courthouse every day. I never imagined that I would meet so many different people in so many different roles in the court system. Not only did I get the opportunity to know the judge I am working for and her staff, but I also met and got to know the other three judges and their staffs as well. I spent time with sheriff deputies, parole officers, attorneys, and court clerks. There are so many people involved in the court system, and it was wonderful gaining an appreciation for the different roles that are needed to make the system work.
Looking back I am truly amazed at how much I have learned in such a short time in my externship. This externship exceeded all my expectations and goals and made me feel more confident and more excited than ever to graduate and start my career. Even though I am sad that my time at the courthouse is ending soon, I don’t feel like it is ending forever. I feel more like it is just being put on hold for a few months until I can return!