“I was extremely lucky to be selected by the School of Law, UL, to take part in the 2015 Summer Externship Programme in the Los Angeles (United States) Federal District Court. The externship lasted for three months and involved working in the chambers of federal judges based in Los Angeles. The programme is organised by the Irish American Bar Association (IABA) which selects one student from each of five law schools in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Once all five students were selected, we found accommodation in L.A. together and applied for our visas.
The first two weeks were spent in state court where we were given the freedom to observe courtroom proceedings. This was a great chance to see attorneys and judges in action. The judges were enormously generous with their time and always took us into chambers to talk about what we had just seen and to answer any questions we had. Following these two weeks, we were split up to work in the chambers of different federal judges. We each then spent five weeks working in the chambers of a particular judge before switching to another judge for our final five weeks. Many U.S. law students apply for externships, and in chambers we worked alongside them. I reported to the judge’s clerks and would work with one to four other externs.
The work was quite varied, but the main task I had was to review motions received, perform the necessary research on the legal issues arising and draft a memo to the judge where I would set out my recommendation as to what action should be taken. If the memo was approved, I would then draft the appropriate court order in response to the motion. I learned a great deal about the U.S. legal system, and my legal writing and research skills were dramatically improved.
Aside from the general work assigned to us, there were many other learning opportunities, such as: attending Court of Appeal arguments, being introduced to the L.A. City Council, tours of the dependency court, the county jail and the L.A. County Coroner’s office, and the option to attend lectures given by state court judges on all areas of law.
While this aspect of the programme was outstanding, being both challenging and informative, the time spent outside of chambers was absolutely fantastic. The IABA and all of the American people we met were great in terms of keeping us busy. It would be impossible to go into detail on everything, but some of the highlights included: the Hollywood Bowl, Disneyland, a weekend at Oxnard beach, a Dodgers game and several IABA events. For me, a worry had been that I would miss out on the traditional student experience of a summer in the U.S. especially as I already had plans to spend my summer in San Diego. However, I can say that L.A. was fantastic and I am extremely happy now that I chose to do something different.
Overall, my experience of living in L.A. for three months was extremely positive. It was a great city to spend my summer and it certainly is a place which I hope to return to in the future.’