Law Student Interns During Pandemic

LAW STUDENT INTERNSHIP DURING PANDEMIC

By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

Many students are continuing to press forward with their career plans and professional development, even as the COVID-19 outbreak has left economic problems and a tight job market in its wake. One such student is Katie Davidson who is completing the second year of her studies with the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at UofL.  

The Louisville native is spending the summer interning with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. “Second to the Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit is the highest federal court for Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. When a case is being appealed from the federal district courts in these states, the Sixth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction. Margaret Lawrence and I, both rising third year law students, are two of the four interns. We were told that UofL students had never worked in the Motions Unit before, which is interesting because this year there are two of us.”

Intern Katie Davidson

Davidson said it was a shock when the pandemic spread in the U.S. and UofL classes moved online.  “Law school online was a challenge. I miss seeing my professors, friends, and classmates in person. I miss the entire Brandeis community. You would think that almost three months into this, that it would be easier, but some days are just as hard as the first.” 

Davidson’s internship shifted to remote work since the closing of the Sixth Circuit courthouse in late April because of the pandemic.  And that’s resulted in at least some changes in court operations.  “It isn’t so much that the types of cases being heard are different, but the volume of litigants seeking release has increased and has been complicated, especially for litigants sending materials from facilities that aren’t processing mail in a timely manner.  And now, oral arguments will be held remotely, following the lead of the Supreme Court.”

Davidson admits to being a bit nervous about jobs that will be available when she graduates, given a post-pandemic economy. She is already in the process of applying for post-graduate clerkships with both federal and state courts for summer/fall of 2021. She hopes to eventually work in courtroom advocacy. “I’m interested in many areas of the law, and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in a number of areas of the law as an undergraduate student and now as a law student. I know that, whatever field I end up in, public service needs to be part of my career…I want to work hard this summer so that I can work toward becoming the advocate this community needs and deserves.”

As Davidson completes her virtual internship with the federal court amidst a global health crisis, she has realized something that extends far beyond knowledge of the law and her planned profession. “The most important thing I’ve learned, or maybe re-learned, is to be kind to myself. This is an extraordinary time we’re living in, and the first step to having compassion for others is to have compassion for oneself. It’s simple, but I am empowered by the idea that I can give more to others by first taking care of myself. In the context of a pandemic, this has manifested in awareness of the suffering around me while also tending to the stress and anxiety that accompanies these uncertain times.”   

Davidson is grateful to the UofL School of Law for its support during the pandemic. “The entire Brandeis community has just been exceptional throughout this entire ordeal. The administration has catered to so many concerns, and their hard work behind the curtain has allowed us students to carry on in spite of extraordinary circumstances. The school’s Office of Professional Development has virtual happy hours and networking opportunities that law students would normally take advantage of in-person over the summer. I am so grateful to OPD for everything they’ve done to help me as I pursue my goals during these strange times.”