How I Got My Federal Internship: Mark Schwartz (SJQ 2013), Appellate Clinic Intern with Federal Defenders, Salt Lake City
1. For whom did you work and what did you do over the summer?
After my 1L year, I spent the summer working for the Federal Defenders, Appellate Division, here in Salt Lake City. This was done as part of the College of Law’s Appellate Clinic.
2. What was the application process like?
I applied through the Clinical Program. I had to take a concurrent class in order to do the Clinic. That class was Appellate Process. I think that one can also take Appellate Practice. Professor Troy Booher teaches both of those courses.
Student-applicants to the Clinic were given the choice to rank their possible work placements. I wanted to be at a public defender’s office, so I was very happy to be placed with the Federal Defenders. Other students ended up working at a firm or Salt Lake Legal Defenders. I also had to submit a proposed schedule of when I could work at the placement.
3. What did you do day to day?
I mostly did legal research on a lot of issues. These included issues involving sentencing of a drug
courier, circuit splits on money laundering statutes, and statutory interpretation of sex offender registration statutes. I also had the opportunity to draft sections of an appellate brief in the case involving the drug courier. That draft was used in large part in the brief that was actually filed, which felt great. I also got to work with several different attorneys. After the clinic was done, I went to Denver to see oral arguments in front of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals for two cases I worked on.
4. Best (and worst, if you want) parts of the job?
Best part: the genuinely collegial atmosphere and the willingness of great attorneys to give me feedback on my work. The opportunity to discuss with attorneys how to choose your best arguments in a case, and how to argue them effectively was invaluable.
Worst part: paying to work (or paying for credit).
5. What advice do you have for those who are looking at the federal government? About law school in general—especially for the 1L’s?
If you want to work for the federal government, get some clinical or other internship experience.
Competition is fierce for every job, especially federal jobs. The more you have on your resume to start, the better you will do.
I also thought my clinic was a good experience even if I weren’t interested in government, because the restrictions placed on appellate briefing (lengths) really force you to focus your arguments and carefully choose what you will say. This would extremely be useful for any litigator. In one case I worked on, I had proposed several issues, maybe a half dozen, to my supervising attorney. He picked the best one and ran with it.