Well hello, everyone! It’s been a while. Thanks to the record 108.6 inches of snow we’ve been allotted here in Boston (thanks Mother Nature), I’ve had a lot of catching up to do at work, and have also been very busy prepping to defend the SSA’s position in federal court.
Let me back up: This semester I’ve been working as a student in the Semester In Practice: Public Interest program at BC Law. Specifically, I’m an intern in the Social Security Administration’s Office of the General Counsel (let’s just call it OGC) in downtown Boston. Rather than balancing classes I’ve been writing briefs, negotiating, and prosecuting. Oh, and preparing to argue a brief in the U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine…
I’ll get back to the oral argument in a minute. First, I’d just like to say that I’m a big fan of getting practical legal experience while in law school. It behooves all students to look into the opportunities available for experiential learning (BC Law’s newly opened Center for Experiential Learning places the majority of the school’s offerings under one umbrella), and to really take advantage of them.
As I mentioned, this semester I’m doing Semester in Practice. Last spring I did the Government Lawyer Externship Program, where I worked two days a week as a Grand Jury Intern with the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office. I worked in their Appeals unit, writing briefs that were submitted to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. I continued with this office in the summer as an SJC Rule 3:03 intern (special rule that allows certain law students to practice before a court) in Cambridge District Court – which meant every day I would go in front of a judge as a [student] prosecutor and argue bail, arraignments, motions, etc. Thanks in part to my performance that summer and my work in the spring externship, I actually got to argue a brief I wrote during my spring externship in front of a three-judge panel (which included the chief justice) of the Massachusetts Appeals Court last October.
So—the oral argument. I have to say, I was pretty nervous last Friday. It’s one thing to have argued in state appellate court in an established program for legal interns, but this was different: no student had ever argued for the agency in front of this federal district court before. In fact, this semester is the first time that OGC in Boston had ever taken on interns. Luckily, I’ve had the best supervisors and mentors at OGC, and I was very prepared. In addition the judge was fair to everyone and didn’t try to “hide the ball” in his questioning. The argument itself went very well! The judge’s questions really forced me to get off my script early and answer on my feet – he would craft hypotheticals that were based on what opposing counsel argued that day, and ask follow-up questions based on how I answered him. In short, he treated me as if I were an actual appellate attorney. It’s amazing how fast 15 minutes flies by when you’re on the hot seat. It was a thrilling, engaging and very rewarding experience that I would absolutely do again. I encourage everyone to explore these chances in law school. Also, we went out to a restaurant in Portland afterwards, and I had Belgian fries made with local Maine potatoes fried in duck fat. As I said – a very rewarding experience!
I’m a 3L at BC Law and I’m working at an externship in downtown Boston this semester through the school’s Semester in Practice: Public Interest program. I’ll be blogging about externship opportunities and life in the BC Law community. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.