National State Attorneys General Program Interns Get Up Close and Personal with Practice of Law

National State Attorneys General Program Interns Get Up Close and Personal with Practice of Law
Media Contact: Nancy Goldfarb, 212-854-1584 [email protected]
Public Affairs Office 212-854-2650 [email protected]
New York, Aug. 27, 2009 -- The students placed as interns by the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School in 16 states this summer may not all wind up in the public sector.
But the rare chance to work alongside public-interest lawyers involved in important issues, and to be exposed to all aspects of a case is an experience bound to serve them well wherever they land, said James Tierney, Director of the AG program.
“There’s a unique opportunity to understand state legal practice that is not commonly found in law school graduates,” said Tierney, a former attorney general in Maine. “These students come back thrilled and anxious to do more of this kind of public-interest legal work.” 
This glimpse into government service was made possible through the Law School’s Guaranteed Summer Funding Program, among the largest in the nation. Max Dubin ’10, one of the more than 20 students who spent his summer working in the planning and analysis section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
“This was an ideal environment for a summer intern,” said Max Dubin ’10. “I always was given the time to talk through my work and gather thoughtful feedback.”
Dubin apparently left an impression.
“Max jumped feet first into both the policy development and legal analysis functions of my section and excelled at both,” said Luke Blocher ’05, Ohio Executive Assistant Attorney General. “Max fit so seamlessly into our operation, that his return to [the Law School] leaves us scrambling to fill the capacity we had come to depend on.”
Dubin was not the only one who had the chance to work with Law School alumni. Sylvia Ewald ’11 was at the Montana Department of Justice, and sat at the same desk once occupied by Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock ’94 when he was an assistant attorney general.
Ewald said the internship did not help her narrow her career interests, but that was a good thing. “It gave me the opportunity to work with many different legal issues to which I’d never been exposed,” she said. “It helped me realize that I have interests in areas of the law that I had never even considered prior to this summer.”
The opportunity to take on substantive legal work was typical of all the interns interviewed. Yaw Darkwa ’11 spent the summer in the Delaware Department of Justice, and wrote a research memo that will be turned into a reference guide to advise police on the procedures and laws for wiretaps. He also spent one day a week in traffic court negotiating pleas with defendants, met the governor, visited the Medical Examiner’s Office, and had a ride-along with police in Wilmington.
“My ideas about the process were changed because it was not what I assumed it was going to be,” Darkwa said. “It was a great summer.”
After Nick Houpt ’11 showed his supervisors in the Environmental Protection Bureau of the New York Attorney’s General Office that he could handle basic research and drafting assignments, they really let him prove himself. “I drafted a complaint and motion papers, spotted the issues and developed the legal strategy in response to those issues,” Houpt said.
The way Tierney sees it, the opportunity to take on such a project while still in law school is the essence of what makes the AG internship program so valuable.
“AG offices recognize talent,” Tierney said. “They will give as much responsibility to an intern as they can handle. They don’t stand on formalities. There’s a job to be done.”

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