How EWOC Guaranteed Summer Funding for Judicial Internships

On January 27, 2014, Dean Schizer announced two significant enhancements to summer funding: an increase in 1L summer funding to $4,500, and the expansion of Guaranteed Summer Funding to include summer judicial internships. Dean Schizer emphasized CLS’s goal of “train[ing] our students to be leaders,” an objective that the law school has demonstrated by example through this policy revision. While NYU has adopted similar funding provisions, most of our peer schools, including Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago, have not.

In the past, CLS has funded other government work, such as internships with a U.S. Attorney’s Office, without covering judicial internships. Internship funding plays a central role in defining the scope of experiential training that students perceive as viable in the early stages of their legal education. Outside funding sources for judicial internships are scarce, a reality that made such internships inaccessible for CLS students under the former policy, and makes them so for many students at peer institutions still today.

Student organizations that represent groups historically underrepresented in the law were particularly concerned with the exclusionary effects that limited internship funding entails. While CLS students have always had the option of taking on academic year judicial externships, such once-a-week externships offer a fraction of the in-depth experience that ten-week, daily internships provide. In the past, many students who wanted to intern for judges were prevented from pursuing the summer opportunities that they found most compelling. This sent the implicit message that those internships were only available for people with additional outside (i.e. personal) financial resources. Some students questioned whether this policy framed judicial work in general as an exclusive endeavor, and could have the effect of discouraging underrepresented groups from applying to clerkships after graduation.

Last semester, I approached Dean Greenberg-Kobrin with the proposal of establishing a judicial intern scholarship fund through Empowering Women of Color. While this type of project would be incredibly challenging to execute due to tax issues and the requirements of endowment, Dean MGK explained, there was another option that might have a broader impact. The expansion of GSF to include judicial internships would attack the problems of unequal access and long-term exclusion head-on, not just for a handful of scholarship recipients, but for the student body as a whole.

With this in mind, I formed a student committee with Cynthia Chen, Kristy Tholanikunnel, Hannah Zale, and Christina Obiajulu. Our goal was to research the underlying issues relating to judicial internship funding, including the policies of other law schools, and to engage with administrators and faculty about the possibility of a funding enhancement. During this process, we gained an understanding of the competing funding priorities that are crucial to supporting professional development for public interest students. We were also encouraged by the resourceful suggestions of faculty members based on their own experiences in law school, concerning how to propose funding revisions so as to maximize student opportunity while minimizing budgetary strain.

Students have consistently expressed their support for the expansion of GSF, demonstrating a high demand for funded judicial internships. Dean Schizer and the administration’s responsive and thoughtful solution to this need reflects a commitment to student satisfaction that should be taken into account in future efforts to advocate for policy changes. Funding summer judicial internships may positively affect long-term issues regarding diversity in legal practice and academia, as the opportunities provided by these internships relate to pipeline concerns that apply across practice areas. Working for a judge gives a 1L student access to invaluable guidance in developing the skills needed to pursue a successful legal career, especially for future litigators. The high standards that accompany the drafting of judicial opinions, the depth and breadth of research necessary to resolve real-life cases, and the advice offered by clerks and judges amount to a training process that complements the doctrinal focus of the first-year curriculum. As these experiences are valuable for students interested in public interest, government, and firm work, the legacy of Dean Schizer’s announcement will be promoting individualized career development for 1Ls of a variety of ambitions.

Sofie Syed is a 2L. She is the President and Treasurer of EWOC.

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 11.52.35 AM

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed

Muck Mail