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The Benefits of a Judicial Internship: An Interview with Hon. Wilma Guzman.

The legal profession has many unique experiences to offer a future attorney.  One way of gaining experience in the legal field is through an internship with a judge.  Serving as a judicial intern can have a lasting impression on the direction of your career as an attorney because not only can an internship help you to be a more favorable candidate to potential employers, it also exposes you to different court processes you would not get in law school, including the thought processes of a judge and lawyering skills of other attorneys.

I interviewed Justice Wilma Guzman, an accomplished magistrate serving in the Supreme Court of the 12th Judicial District in Bronx County, about the experience interns can gain in her courtroom.  Justice Guzman mentors many students ranging from high school to law school students in various different programs and accepts judicial interns year-round.  My interview with Justice Guzman led me to believe that she is a great mentor.  Her thoughtful responses gave me the impression that in her courtroom the intern's experience is just as important to her as the cases over which she preside.   

See below for some of the insights Justice Guzman offered about internships and the kind of experience interns will gain in her courtroom.

What are some of the unique benefits of serving as an intern with the court system during law school and prior to attending law school?

High school students can learn more about the court system other than what they are exposed to on a day-to-day basis.  Students interning in my courtroom will get the chance to see that the law is broader than criminal law matters and that there is also a civil component.  They will be exposed to the different practice areas in civil law such as housing and family law issues, and if a case is in the beginning stages of trial, they may get some exposure to how a jury is selected in a civil trial.

Law students on the other hand will find great benefit in the hands-on training they will receive outside of the classroom.  The student could have an opportunity to sit with me on the bench and see how I make split decisions in trial cases or decisions on motions.  They will also be exposed to how attorneys give opening and closing statements and how attorneys conduct cross examinations.  

Do you consider interning to be essential to the student’s experience as a future lawyer?

Interning gives you the opportunity to get practical training that you would not get in the classroom such as seeing how the courtroom operates.  Although the justice system is a unified system, every courtroom operates differently and this is valuable experience to a future attorney in that they have been exposed to the different courtroom requirements and the ability to now find what a courtroom may require from the attorney.  There is also valuable experience in watching other attorneys advocate on behalf of their clients.

How soon should a law student start interning?

For law students, it is best to start after the first year when the student has had experience in legal research and exposure to briefing, shepardizing and citing cases correctly.  

How can a student find an internship position, particularly high school and college students?

These positions are made available for credit and can be found through different avenues.  Law students should utilize their career service office and their different networks including their professors.  

High school and college students may find these positions through networking with their church if possible, their particular high school, and various after-school or internship programs that may be available to them such as the Sonia and Celina Judicial Internship Program in New York.  

Any advice on how students can make their application stand out from others?

For law students, it is important to have taken a research course, civil procedure with knowledge in New York civil procedure being a plus.  

A college student with experience in a pre-law program is a plus because they have some exposure to the law.  Pre-law programs are a great way to prepare a student in their future career as an attorney.

What is the most important characteristic a potential intern should possess?

Students on all levels should have the ability to maintain confidential information and, should be punctual, truthful and loyal with a good work ethic.

What are the responsibilities the intern will have?

For high school and college students, they will work with the confidential secretary copying, scanning and faxing confidential materials to litigants or to counsel.  

Law students will have the potential of conducting research on various civil matters, as well as writing memos, an experience that will expand on the student’s legal education.

What advice would you give to future women attorneys?

Work hard regardless of your background and show people that you have a good work ethic; however, you should never volunteer for anything that you are not sure you are capable of completing, but never turn down anything for which you have been volunteered.  

If you're interested in interning with Justice Guzman, send a letter of interest, resume, writing sample, and transcript to Hon. Wilma Guzman, Attention Irma Pena, Supreme Court, Bronx County, 851 Grand Concourse, Room 6M-17, Bronx, New York 10451, Chambers # 718-618-1403.

This post has been brought to you by the Ms. JD Journalists. If you have suggestions for any topics that you think should be covered on Ms. JD, feel free to email your suggestions to contentdirector@ms-jd.org and the Ms. JD Journalists will get right on it.

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