By Marissa Shaw ’23
Interning this summer at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia was eye-opening in more ways than one. I was not sure what to expect in interning for a federal judge, but the Honorable Paul L. Friedman and his dedicated law clerks truly offered me everything I had hoped for and more out of my first summer of law school. I spent much of the summer applying a variety of skills from my first-year courses at the University at Buffalo School of Law. From researching and writing, to honing in on the intricacies of certain rules of Civil Procedure, to learning new motion practices related to criminal law, I am so grateful for the breadth of learning opportunities working for the court provided.
Rounding out my first year of law school witnessing advocates on both sides of a case work hard to best represent their clients was an extremely rewarding experience. Seeing first-hand the different styles of oral advocacy that can be successful, versus those that are less effective, is a lesson I look forward to carrying with me throughout my legal career.
In addition to working on cases before Judge Friedman, I also had the opportunity to attend weekly virtual talks in the Summer Speaker Series of the District Court for the District of Columbia, which allowed me to hear from numerous distinguished attorneys about their paths to leadership positions within the federal government, or their service in the judicial branch. The highlight of the series was the chance to hear from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. Hearing her discuss her journey to the Supreme Court after working in a number of varying legal positions, as well as her approach to consensus building on the Court, is something I will never forget.
Another highlight was the chance to travel to Washington D.C., for an in-person sentencing hearing in a criminal case. Seeing the courthouse in person and the chance to work in Judge Friedman’s chambers for a day was truly inspiring and added another level of appreciation for the work that judges and law clerks around the country do behind the scenes to prepare for each stage of a case as it progresses through the system. It was also the first time I had ever been in a federal courtroom and witnessed all the questions a judge may ask of attorneys, all the procedural requirements related to calculating a guideline sentencing range, and the ways in which different courtroom employees contribute to an in-person hearing.
I am sincerely grateful for the donors to the Mary J. Dowd Summer Fellowship, who supported my work with the Court and made the opportunity of pursuing a public interest position over my 1L summer come to fruition. Observing how a federal judge and their chambers manage the cases on their docket and thoughtfully approach each interaction with the parties to a case was an invaluable experience. Thus, I would like to extend a heart-felt thank you to all the donors!
Name: Marissa Shaw ’23
Name of Fellowship: Mary J. Dowd Summer Fellowship
Placement: Honorable Paul L. Friedman, United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Location: Washington, DC
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “Seeing first-hand the different styles of oral advocacy that can be successful, versus those that are less effective, is a lesson I look forward to carrying with me throughout my legal career.”