My Experience as a Judicial Intern

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By: Elizabeth Bourne

When I accepted a position as a summer intern for the Honorable Judge John L, Sinatra, Jr. in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York back in February 2020, I could not have imagined how much the world around me would change in such a short period of time. I received a generous fellowship award from the Joseph Antonecchia Fellowship through the University at Buffalo School of Law.

Along with all my fellow classmates, my first year of law school didn’t end in the most conventional way. During the final six weeks of online classes, I began to grow uncertain of what my first summer legal job would entail. Yet my whole experience thus far has been an honor, privilege, and something I will value for the rest of my career.  I look forward to the coming months and all that I will learn throughout the rest of the summer.

Despite the current situation, my time working for Judge Sinatra has been full of beneficial and interesting experiences. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to sit in on various in-person court proceedings ranging from sentencings, change of plea hearings, and oral arguments. These experiences have given me a better understanding of criminal and civil procedure as well as provided me the opportunity to see attorneys in action. Along with the various in-person proceedings, I have had the opportunity to call into all sorts of proceedings conducted via Zoom and telephone conference. All of these proceedings have given me insight into the federal court system and demonstrated just how much the legal community has adapted to the changing circumstances surrounding the pandemic in order to keep the judicial system running smoothly.

Throughout the first half of the summer, I also conducted various research projects on issues before the court. In doing so, I have utilized and continued to improve my research and writing skills learned in my Legal Analysis, Writing, and Research (LAWR) class. I have researched a broad range of different topics, and this has exposed me to a vast array of different kinds of legal issues. I have also been working on researching and drafting decisions for the court.

This judicial internship has taken me out of my comfort zone and given me confidence. However, it has also taught me the valuable lesson that it is okay to be unsure and ask questions. I have found all of my colleagues here to be eager and willing to answer and discuss any questions I may have.

I have learned so much in the first month of my time in Judge Sinatra’s chambers. Getting a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the judicial department has given me a whole new perspective on law and the various steps of what goes into preparing for hearings and working as a clerk in federal court. Further, I have witnessed first-hand just how resilient the Buffalo legal community is and look forward to working in this community throughout my career.


Picture2Name: Elizabeth Bourne, ’22

Name of Fellowship: Joseph Antonecchia Fellowship

Placement: United States District Court for the Western District of New York

Location: Buffalo, NY   

One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “One important lesson I learned from this fellowship is that resilience is key in the legal profession, especially during these unprecedented times.”