Judicial Internships Open Doors for Law Students

More than 100 first-year Suffolk University Law School students worked alongside judges during the summer through the school’s Judicial Internship program, now in its seventh year.

“It’s a great way for first-year law students to get practical experience early in their careers—when they need it the most,” said judicial clerkship adviser Margaret Talmers.

Immersed in the law 

James Long interned with two judges at the Boston Municipal Court in Roxbury in 2011, drafting opinions for both the trial and appellate courts. He calls the experience “priceless.”

“You get the sense that some first-year interns at small firms can end up being treated as glorified secretaries,” said Long. “Meanwhile, the first day I was at the courthouse, I was handed a case. I had to teach myself Massachusetts criminal procedure in one week.”

Notorious cases 

Sarah Fischer interned last year at the U.S. District Court under Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler, a Suffolk Law School alumna. In her first week, she got to see Governor Deval Patrick testify in the Sal DiMasi trial. Fischer remembers thinking: That’s it, that’s the highlight of the summer right there. How could it get any better?

“A couple of weeks later, I showed up to work one morning and there were cars and press trucks everywhere,” she said. The gangster-FBI informant James “Whitey” Bulger was at the Moakley Courthouse after 16 years on the run.

“This is something everyone should do their first year,” Fischer said. “You see law, and lawyers, in practice. It helps you ask: Do I want to be a litigator? A trial attorney? Or should I pursue a corporate career, because this just isn’t for me?”

Experience pays off 

A year later, Fischer was working as a summer associate at a prominent downtown law firm, and she said her judicial internship definitely helped her land the position.

“The research and writing experience were invaluable,” she said. “I ended up with a great writing sample at the end of the summer. Not to mention the confidence that I do in fact know what I’m talking about.”

Long, who is interested in international law – he writes for the Suffolk Transnational Law Review and spent his spring break shadowing an attorney in Japan – agrees that the practical experience of working in a courthouse has had an immense impact. It forced him to be more concise in his writing. and it is helping his case as he applies for a clerkship after graduation.

“One of the check boxes on the application is always, ‘Have you interned with a judge before?’ I think it’s certainly something they look for.”