Tag Archives: Externships

Taking Law School One Day at a Time

stpierreKimberly St. Pierre will graduate from Cooley in May 2013.  As a part-time student who was employed full time during law school, Ms. St. Pierre knows full well the dedication required to succeed in law school.  In this posting, which is based on the final journal entry for her externship with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in Detroit, a grateful Ms. St. Pierre shares the philosophy that helped sustain her through her four years at Cooley.

 Well, at long last my law school journey is over.  I have taken my last final exam, and I am officially done.  It is a happy and sad time, and I cannot say that I could do it over again.  Full-time law school, full-time job and internship, studying, and my desire to get good grades have made this an overwhelming journey, but it was well worth it.

As for what I have learned, you name it, I’ve learned it.  I’ve come a long way from oversleeping for my first final exam in Criminal Law and thinking “What have I done, I cannot do this,” to “My house is a mess, I need more time,” to, finally, “I can do this, I’m almost done, one day at a time.”

That has been my motto.  One day at a time.  That is what has gotten me through.  Get up at 7 a.m. – internship, driving right to work for eight hours, and get up again, one day at a time.

I know this journal entry is supposed to be written to sum up my internship, but I find that I am overwhelmed that this is the end of it all.  I am extremely grateful to Cooley for enabling me to go to school at unordinary times, including Sunday mornings, else I couldn’t have done this.  I am thankful to those great professors who have helped me to get along one day at a time.  To the incredible people at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office who enriched my world with invaluable practical skills.  To those I have met on this four-year journey, who encouraged me, lifted me up when I was down, and especially to those who said I couldn’t do it.  Thank you to all of you.  You have helped me drive forward and reach this goal, and for this I thank you.  I am done!!!


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How to Have a Great Cooley Foreign Externship Experience

Melanie GloverMelanie Glover is a 2010  Cooley alumna who practices immigration and naturalization law with the Dallas-based law firm of Davis & Associates.  In this post, Melanie recounts her wonderful externship experience in Spain and offers advice for current Cooley students.

 While at Cooley, I was able to work as an extern at a law firm in Madrid, Spain. Identifying the right placement may take a bit more time, but I strongly recommend that students interested in international or comparative law take advantage of this opportunity.

To prepare for my externship, I first checked with the Externship Office where I learned that it was possible to satisfy the externship requirement abroad. Since the School’s database did not yet contain a firm or contact in Madrid, the Externship Office directed me to use the mechanisms for having a new site approved. This may take a bit more time, but it is very well worth the effort.

Next, I identified several web sites that list firms and lawyers in different cities around the world. The search engines at these sites permitted the selection of parameters such as the type of law that a firm or lawyer practices, the city, country or region being searched, and even the size of the firm (www.hg.org or www.martindale.com). I identified about 20 firms and sent resumes and cover letters to attorneys at each location.

I suggest that an interested student should send an externship request to the listed hiring or managing partner if there is one or to a partner or associate at the firm who does the kind of work that is of interest. In addition, it is useful to clarify from the beginning that the position sought would be unpaid. Another helpful tip is to follow up methodically to schedule phone interviews. It is important to remember that lawyers and law firms receive numerous resumes and that success requires making yours stand out – professional follow-up is one of the best ways to do this. Finally, I narrowed my choices to three firms, and I found myself in the difficult but fortunate position of having to choose among three offers for an externship position. In the end, my choice was to extern for a law firm, Mariscal Abogados & Asociados, whose primary practice is corporate and commercial law.

Melanie and Her Mentor
My foreign-externship experience was invaluable because of the variety of hands-on legal work that I was permitted to do.  My tasks were varied and meaningful. I researched and wrote memorandums covering issues concerning commercial contracts and employment agreements. I attended informal meetings with governmental officials, and I also was allowed to handle corporate filings at the Madrid Commercial Registry.

Spanish Post Office

A significant amount of my work also included translating articles about international-law topics including intellectual property, debt collection, contract, and employment issues. While “translating” may seem a bit mundane, I learned that it was a much-needed skill that opened the door to many of my “legal” assignments. This is because translating, I found, can be used as a learning tool to help quickly and concisely bring the translator up-to-speed on a developing legal issue. I was even able to observe client interactions and pre-trial negotiations. I was also fortunate to have Dean Toy conduct the site visit, and the firm was very impressed the professionalism of Cooley’s externship-review process.

Would-be foreign externs should be aware that foreign law firms have the greatest need for locally licensed attorneys, which means that a post-externship position may not always be possible at first. Nevertheless, forward-thinking externs can secure great recommendations, life-long friendships, new skills, and an eye-opening experience that changes you for the better. To this day, I maintain contact with the lawyers I worked with at Mariscal Abogados & Asociados and even help with short legal articles that the firm uses as part of its promotional materials. I also try to encourage others to extern for the same firm. For example, I have heard that a Grand Rapids student may be externing at the law firm this summer. Whatever foreign externship experience you decide to pursue, a little investment in time and effort can shape the rest of your legal career in ways you did not anticipate.

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A Great Experience With an International Externship

Dino Gojac

Dino Gojak

Cooley student Dino Gojak is having a great experience with an international externship.  In this post, he offers insightful thoughts to fellow Cooley students.

When considering choices for the practical experience (externship, clinic) the law school requires, I thought about using the opportunity to learn about law in the country of my birth – Serbia. Information about how to have a new externship site approved was on the portal, and I began to look for law firms that might accept me.

A simple web search turned up numerous small- and medium-sized law firms, mostly local and not “international” ones. After talking to others and thinking it over, I decided that the best plan was to look for a medium-sized local firm with foreign clients in the hope that it was there that I could do the most good. The law firm agreed, and the externship office approved the site.  In the two months that I have been at this law firm located in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, I realize that I had made the right choice.

The strategy was to find a law firm that had great lawyers but needed some of the skills that I could bring in order to more effectively compete with the large, and more expensive, international law firms with home offices in London, New York, Vienna, or Berlin. After the initial period of getting to know each other, I am now helping to translate legal documents from Serbian into English (the other way around is a bit harder for me), to proofread important client letters, due diligence reports, and as the partners at the firm have begun to trust my abilities, to research commercial and labor/employment laws (the firm is a business law firm). I also am trusted to file legal documents at government offices since I speak enough Serbian to do that right.

A big break came when the formatting on a due diligence report failed, and I spent long hours reformatting because I had the right knowledge of the software. Now I am helping to create a legal database of information that is easily found on websites for firm-wide use.

This week, a partner asked me to proofread some work on “personal liens” and “real liens” for a German client. These sounded familiar to me and after some thought, I remembered that common law countries call these easements in gross and easements appurtenant, which we learned in Property class. This allowed me to explain myself well and to recognize those aspects of Serbian lien law that differ from the American forms and traditions. Now that my colleagues see that I know what I am doing, I am getting really busy at the firm.

There are special challenges with remote externships. Luckily, I have family in Belgrade that I could stay with, which meant that I was not faced with what is probably the hardest thing to negotiate in a foreign language –  rental agreement. (Similar-minded students may be able to work with the law firm to at least get help with this process). Despite the difficulties, the opportunity is a great one and is worth the extra effort. Speaking Serbian was not a requirement,  though it has helped, and so other students who consider this kind of option can find a way. I am truly amazed at how rewarding this experience is turning out to be.

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Greetings From Belgrade

Prof. Paul Carrier

Prof. Paul Carrier

By Professor Paul Carrier

Professor Paul Carrier has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship – his second – to teach International Law at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.  He is writing a series of posts about his  experiences.

Greetings from Belgrade! On assignment at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law, I had the good fortune to meet with the President of the Serbian Bar Association recently. There are some very exciting legal happenings afoot.  Along with teaching and skills course work, I will try to lend a hand and to learn as much as I can about a national bar in the state of transition. I may also pick up a few tips and pointers regarding an international extradition case.

The Serbian Bar Association is an independent organization promulgating and enforcing the rules of admission and membership since 1868. There are eight regional bar associations for the eight administrative regions in the country, with a Council comprised of members of each regional bar association. Authority to self-govern was granted by the Ministry of Justice, and the main governing body is the Council. (The bar associations of Kosovo and of Metohija are currently not involved in Serbian Bar Association activities due to their steps to become self-governing and fully autonomous regions).

Current issues facing the national bar are a new, voluntary continuing legal education training system responding to EU requirements for accession into the union and a ruling by the national constitutional court that arguably establishes government control over licensing in contravention of the nearly 150 years of autonomy. With regard to the former, a new voluntary system of continuing legal education is set to take effect for the legal bar, with the possible implementation of a mandatory system in due course. The early focus is on criminal law and criminal procedure as the country undergoes transformation from a civil-law advocacy system to a more adversarial one. Of utmost priority is training of attorneys in criminal procedure, especially for witness examination, cross-examination, the use of leading questions, and related matters. Following these efforts, the Advokatska Komora Srbije (AKS) will turn to training regimes for other major practice areas (called “katedra” here, or major practice areas) such as civil law and international law.

A recent decision by the constitutional court has now put into question the autonomy of the AKS. Serbian law only allows review of administrative issues, and not substantive ones. The issue then is one of the separation of powers, i.e., whether it is the Ministry of Justice or some other governmental agency or court to act as the final arbiter of AKS rules and practice, or whether it will remain with the bar association as it has for the last 150 years.

The AKS is also attempting to license, govern and discipline all lawyers in Serbia. Currently, the AKS only has authority over attorneys at law, and not judges or prosecutors, who have their own rule-making and standards-enforcing systems. The AKS also does not have authority over in-house counsel, who are governed and sanctioned in their dealings at commercial courts by their own corporate employers.

The AKS President is involved in an extradition request on an Interpol warrant for a dual citizen of the United States and of Israel involving an international extradition treaty.

Finally, I am also supervising an extern working at a Belgrade business law firm in addition to my duties at the Faculty of Law. In addition to the truly unique legal issues that I am learning here, I will be trying to open more doors to rewarding externship opportunities.

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Gone Abroad, But Hardly a Stranger in a Strange Land

Prof. Paul Carrier

Prof. Paul Carrier

By Professor Paul Carrier

Professor Paul Carrier has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship – his second – to teach International Law at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.  This is the inaugural post in a series that will recount his experiences.  Professor Carrier has for years made important contacts around the world on behalf of Cooley.  Cooley students should in particular note the wonderful international externship opportunities available to them.

I just finished a three-week intensive Slovak language course offered by the Philosophy Faculty, Comenius University, Slovak Republic as a way to refresh my connection to Central European languages and culture. I have also met or corresponded with a variety of former colleagues and friends in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Austria. Their professions range from former law clerks who worked with me, to Slovak judges who I have met and taught Legal English, to the named partner of a Viennese arbitration firm who has already accepted three externs from Cooley. 

One of my goals was to try to put myself back into the right frame of mind, culturally and linguistically, as I am about to embark on a teaching assignment with the Faculty of Law at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.

Another goal was to continue professional relationships as a way to establish externship opportunities in international law for Cooley students who would like to gain legal experience abroad.

Externships that I have helped to establish include law firms in Bucharest, Romania; Beijing, China; Singapore; and, now, Belgrade, Serbia. Cooley has a truly unique and highly professional externship program. To date, every externship site that I have worked with has been pleased with their Cooley externs, and, though some are on-again, off-again due to student interest, all are willing to consider future externs from Cooley. The only hurdle that I have experienced with the establishment of foreign externships is to convince a first-time site to take a Cooley extern. Once the first extern is in place, the program’s value becomes clear and then sells itself. In fact, some sites such as a business law firm in Madrid, Spain regularly ask whether there are any good candidates for upcoming terms (not always easy to fill).

My primary assignment in Serbia is to help the law students at the University of Belgrade with skills-based courses and moot court opportunities such as the VIS International Arbitration Competition held in Vienna, Austria every year. While there, I hope to broaden my understanding of civil law systems based on the Austro-Hungarian codes model, on teaching and learning trends in Central Europe and in the Balkans for law students, and to delve more deeply into different legal philosophies.

I look forward to sharing insights on different legal philosophies and on different teaching methods and learning expectations with regard to the Serbian law students with whom I will have the pleasure to work over the next two semesters.

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My Journey…is not ending, it is only beginning

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen

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!

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My Journey . . . using your externship to establish a network

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen


 Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship.  This is the seventh post in Susan’s outstanding series.

We have all heard how hard it will be to get a job in the legal field once we graduate.  As I am getting closer to graduation, it is now starting to worry me.  We work so hard to obtain our legal education and skills that it would be disappointing not to find the position we have our hearts set on. 

Many times our professors and mentors have told us how important networking is in obtaining that first position.  I always knew it was important, but I have not had the time to dedicate to networking like I need to.  My externship has given me the chance to network with others working directly in the legal field.  I have been amazed at the wonderful people I have met and how willing they are to help in any way they can.  Not only have I met four wonderful judges, but I have met prosecuting attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, probation officers, sheriff deputies, and law clerks.  All have helped me with anything I have needed while working at my externship, but so many have also given me great advice and names of people they know that may help me get a position as a prosecuting attorney.  Our county does not have any open positions at this time, but it is wonderful having them for a reference if one does open up or if there is a position in one of the surrounding counties.  I have also had the chance to meet and talk to several attorneys from different firms.  Some I have seen on a weekly basis, and I know I could call them for questions or advice after graduation. 

I underestimated how important an externship can be in helping achieve that first position.  Plan to do your externship in the city you want to work in, and use it to help establish a network of people you can call for advice or who may hire you.  I was amazed at how happy people are to help those of us entering the field they know and love.  Don’t underestimate the opportunites your externship can provide in bettering the odds of getting that first position we are all working so hard for!

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The Journey Continues….an emotional day of sentencing

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship.  This is the sixth post in Susan’s outstanding series.

Recently I was able to attend 17 sentencing hearings.  As I watched, I realized how difficult it can be  for judges to make decisions and how their decisions affect so many lives in such a dramatic way.  Before our day started, the Judge shared the sentencing reports she reviewed over the weekend to prepare for Monday’s busy schedule.  As I read through them I was amazed at how many of the people had several past felonies and at how young so many of the people were.  Three young men were between the ages of 15 and 17 years old.  Most had not graduated from high school.  Some had violated parole and were coming in for sentencing because of their violations, and some were receiving their sentences after their trials.  I read through their files trying to understand what their backgrounds were and what was going on in their lives.  Some were involved in gangs and dealing drugs, and others had committed violent acts.  Most were repeat offenders.  The Judge walked me through her thinking about the sentencing and what affected her decision regarding each sentence and the guidelines that applied.  What an incredible learning opportunity!

As the defendants came before the Judge, she did her best to stress the importance of education for those receiving parole or drug education sentences.  She tried to stress the importance of turning their lives around so they would not appear in front of her again.  Most just said, “Yes Ma’am” and hung their heads.  Some of the people sentenced were brought in wearing the orange jump suit and handcuffs with several sheriff deputies standing guard.  Some asked through tears for lesser sentences; others smiled when they received less than they expected.  It was definitely an emotional day for all involved.

But what really touched me that day is that it was also a tough day for the Judge.  She listened intently to the defendants when they were given time to speak to her before they were sentenced.  They talked about how they had jobs they didn’t want to lose and that they had children they wanted to see.  For those who committed non-violent crimes or those who didn’t have as many repeat offenses, you could see the Judge thinking through all the information thoughtfully before she sentenced them.  The Judge seemed to have a harder time with these defendants.  It was definitely easier to sentence those defendants with the more violent histories or those who had several felonies on their record.  When we got back into the Judge’s chambers, I could tell she was exhausted and emotionally drained.

I am fortunate to have been allowed to participate in a part of the Judge’s job that I would not have had the opportunity to experience without this externship.  By allowing me into her thought process both before and after sentencing, I gained a tremendous respect and appreciation for the difficult decisions judges must make.  I also learned that even for someone who has been a judge for a number of years, it isn’t easy making decisions that affect another human being’s life in such a dramatic way.

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My Journey . . . “Hey, I know how to do that!”

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship.  This is the fifth post in Susan’s series.

I just finished observing my first murder trial.  I was very excited and looking forward to seeing the trial and learning everything I could.  I expected to fill my notebook with all the things I didn’t know or things to research.  I did take notes on the great questions asked and the different styles I observed from the two attorneys.  But the most exciting thing I took away was that I already know how to do so much of what I observed in the trial.

The trial was complicated with many players involved and many witnesses called to testify.  When there were witnesses that didn’t remember details from six months ago, the prosecutor when through the process of refreshing their memory.  It was the exact process I learned and practiced in my trial skills class.

There were also several pieces of evidence that were admitted in this trial.  I watched intently as the attorneys laid the foundation for each piece and admitted them as evidence for the jury to consider.  Again, both parts of a trial I have practiced repeatedly in my trial skills class.  Even when I watched the attorneys move the podium to face the jury during their opening and closing arguments and then move it back when a witness was testifying, I wrote down “attorneys moved the podium like I learned in class.”

I went into the trial expecting to write down everything I didn’t know.  But instead, I walked out at the end with the confidence that I already know how to do so many aspects of a trial, even a complicated murder trial.  I encourage everyone to sit in a courtroom and watch trials you may be interested in.  You will be amazed at how much you have learned and how confident and well prepared you will feel!

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My Journey . . . One Regret

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen

 Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship.  This is the fourth post in Susan’s series.

Now that I am several weeks into my externship, I have one regret.  I regret that I was not able to spend more hours per week at my externship.  Because I am a non-traditional student and I work full time outside of school, I was not able to take off more than twelve hours a week from my job to be at the courthouse with my field supervisor.  I wanted to write this to encourage everyone to plan in advance and dedicate as much time as you possibly can to do an externship. 

The time I have spent at the courthouse has been invaluable.   I have been able to observe all parts of a criminal and civil trial and I have learned an incredible amount.  However, I have not been able to view anything start to finish because I am only there part-time.  By viewing different trials in small sections I am missing out on a key learning opportunity.  Trials are stories, and how the attorneys tell the entire story to the jury is so important.  By only seeing small portions it is as if you are seeing small sections of several movies none of which are intertwined.  How the attorneys tell the story and intertwine all the facts is such an important skill to observe.  This can only be accomplished when you are able to watch the entire story.  I believe this is relevant for all types of externships, not just one in the criminal courts.  Seeing the story play out from start to finish is a valuable experience for any law student, and it allows a better understanding of the entire process.

My externship is definitely one of the highlights of my legal education, and I encourage everyone to take full advantage of doing one in your area of interest.  I also want to help others avoid having the same regret I do!


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