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Moritz Law Students Explore Washington, DC, Legal Careers

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The Moritz Law seven-week Washington summer program involves a 20-hour-a-week internship. The students work with Program Director Professor Peter Swire to secure summer positions. Professor Swire worked at the White House, crafting privacy policy in the Clinton Administration from 1999 to 2001 and also practiced law in Washington before starting his teaching career.

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Swire uses his knowledge of government and the city to aid students, who choose organizations they are interested in and interview with the groups individually. While not all students who sign up for the program (sometimes lining up in the wee hours of the morning to be at the top of that coveted list) find internships, most do.

Students also take two classes for the program: an externship seminar, where they develop policy proposals based on their internships, and a professional responsibility class, where they learn the finer points of practicing law in Washington. Both courses are taught by Swire, with guest speakers coming into share their local knowledge.

This summer, 23 Moritz Law students will go to Washington with the program, and 17 made the journey last year. The program "has grown and been successful," says Swire, who is proud of the students who have completed the program thus far.

Rising third-year Jocelyn Cohen had Swire for torts her first year, which piqued her interest in the Washington program. Because of Swire, "I knew it would be a good experience," she says.

Cohen interned with United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), a national nonprofit organization based in Washington. UCP's national office focuses on public policy for those with disabilities, including people with cerebral palsy. Cohen has cerebral palsy herself, "so I'm a little bit invested in it," she says.

At UCP, Cohen worked on voting accessibility for people with disabilities, as well as on other access issues, such as Medicare coverage of wheelchairs. She did research on these issues and went to meetings on Capitol Hill. Her supervisor at UCP told her "every week I'd have some kind of epiphany," and she did, Cohen says.

Cohen was shocked to learn just how inaccessible the voting process is for people with disabilities, and not just physically. Blind people, for example, cannot vote anonymously. Voting places inaccessible to wheelchairs provide voting at the curbside, which is also public. For her policy paper in the program's externship seminar, Cohen wrote an argument against electronic voting machines with paper trails because that paper ruins anonymity of the vote for blind people.

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Working on voting issues the summer before the presidential election made it "very interesting to be in DC at that time," says Cohen. Returning to Ohio for the fall semester and the election itself heightened the issues even more, with national attention on the state.

In her legal career, Cohen hopes to do entertainment law, especially within the music industry; "it would be a really interesting thing to be able to help musicians' careers grow," she says. She will do pro bono legal work as well, she says, "and election law will be a huge part of that."

Bassel Charles Korkor, also a rising third-year at Moritz Law, did an internship on the local level last summer with the DC Office of the Attorney General, the city prosecutor's office. Korkor interned in the appellate division, which only hired two summer interns total. It was "a good opportunity to do appellate work," he says.

The DC Office of the Attorney General gets hundreds of trial-level cases, and some move on to the appellate level. Korkor worked with attorneys in that office, doing research on case law and statutes, preparing memos and briefs, and suggesting arguments that could be used in appeals. Having interned at the State Department already, Korkor wanted to see the local side of DC via the Moritz program. "Washington is a city like any other city," he says.

This summer, Korkor will see a very different side of Washington as a summer associate at the firm Arent Fox. "I'm really looking forward to it," he says.

Gerrit Smith, unlike most participants, went on the Moritz Washington program during his second summer and took time out the day before his law school graduation to talk about the experience.

Smith interned with the Senate Judiciary Committee's staff to the Majority Counsel. Smith worked with staff of Senator Mike DeWine, the senior senator from Ohio, who is Chair of the Antitrust Subcommittee. After some time in private practice, Smith would like to work in the Senate someday. Last summer, "through the program, I was able to do that," he says.

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The opportunity made up for the fact that he had an unpaid internship for his 2L summer. He was not the only one to make the sacrifice: all the other Judiciary Committee interns that summer had just finished their second years. "It's a competitive position," says Smith. "Luckily, it worked out for me…I was willing to forgo the money for the experience." The Moritz program "was one of the highlights of law school," says Smith.
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