Thomas Smith S.J. Quinney College of Law University of Utah
I learned more about how to be a practicing attorney during two summer externships at the Pocatello branch office than I learned during two years of law school. During both externships I worked primarily on actual cases, and during the second summer I appeared in court under a student license. Law school classes provide theory and background about the law. However, nothing in law school comes close to working on a real case, especially when there is an actual defendant who has to live with the outcome.
The atmosphere in the Pocatello office was excellent. All of the attorneys went out of their way to make sure that I was included in all aspects of the cases assigned to me, and I frequently attended meetings with agents and opposing counsel. In addition, all of the work assigned to me was significant and had an impact on the outcome of each case. For example, I conducted my own research and proposed my own recommendations when I appeared in court.
A benefit of working in the Pocatello office is that it is small and intimate. I quickly met most of the people involved with the District Court. One of my most valuable experiences was interacting with the judges and opposing counsel from the Federal Defender’s Office. The judges were flexible with me since I was a student. However, they did not hesitate to challenge me during hearings to demonstrate a point or to impress upon areas of improvement. I also spoke with opposing counsel before and after hearings, and they were extremely encouraging and accommodating. I never once felt slighted because I was a student.
Despite working in a small office, I never felt that my opportunities were limited. I participated in most of the lunchtime presentations given in the Boise office by teleconference. These “brownbag” presentations were helpful to learn more about other areas of law within the United States Attorney’s Office and beyond. I was also impressed with the variety of people and opportunities in the District of Idaho.
I would highly recommend spending a summer or two as an extern at the United States Attorney’s Office, especially in the Pocatello branch office. My experiences over the past two summers have been essential to help me prepare for employment as an attorney. More importantly, I met a lot of great people who I look foreword to seeing in the future.