On Behalf of the United States

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By Madelynn Hepp ’23

As I looked at the judge and stated my name followed by “on behalf of the United States,” I realized just how pivotal my summer internship has been for my future legal career. An Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) told me that if you feel a tingle in your stomach when you state your name for the record, you’re meant to be a litigator. Sure enough, when I stated my name for the record, I felt a tingle in my stomach and a sense of immense pride to represent the United States for a brief moment. 

My experience in the summer law clerk program at the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York (USAO) far exceeded my expectations, and incorporated valuable legal experience with practical real-world experience. This summer afforded me the opportunity to improve my legal research and writing skills, appear in federal court under a student practice order, make a multitude of legal connections, assist with trial preparation, and attend field trips to federal and local agencies.

I was assigned to three AUSA’s, each of whom worked in different divisions in the office. This allowed me to gain exposure to three divisions: Narcotics and Organized Crime, Asset Forfeiture, and White Collar. Each of my attorneys frequently gave me legal questions that they needed me to research and provide them an answer. This research included topics such as Federal Rules of Evidence 404(b) and 615, the Confrontation Clause, the definition of drug paraphernalia, Miranda Warnings, the requirements for a conspiracy charge, and much more. One research project gave me the opportunity to write a motion in limine for an upcoming trial. 

Throughout our ten weeks, we as law clerks had access to multiple opportunities outside of the office. Our internship directors planned trips to several agencies, where we had the ability to learn about their role in the community. We first went to the Peace Bridge, where Customs and Border Protection taught us about border technology and took us on a tour of the border crossing. The Erie County Sheriff’s Office took us on a boat tour with their marine division, and they also allowed us to spend a day at their SWAT facility to learn about the extensive training they do. All of the trips allowed the clerks to build connections in the Buffalo community, while fostering mutual respect between the USAO and partner agencies.

Of the countless things I learned this summer, I saw just how important it is to seek out assignments and experiences, and more importantly, seek feedback from attorneys. The USAO provided me with a well-rounded summer clerkship that incorporated legal experience with lasting legal connections. 

Thank you to Francis M. Letro and Cindy Abbott Letro for their generous donation to the University at Buffalo School of Law Summer Public Interest Funding & Fellowship Program, which made my internship experience possible. The importance of public interest work is even more evident to me after my summer at the USAO, and I plan on carrying these lessons with me for the rest of my career. 

Name: Madelynn Hepp ’23

Name of Fellowship: Francis M. Letro ’79& Cindy Abbott Letro Fellowship 

Placement: U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York

Location: Buffalo, NY

One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “I saw just how important it is to seek out assignments and experiences, and more importantly, seek feedback from attorneys.”