Career Profiles

Paige Counsman ‘17

Judicial Extern, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Lansing, MI)


Paige Counsman ‘17

What did you do there?
As a judicial extern, my main project was researching and writing a bench memorandum on a fourth amendment issue regarding search and seizure. I started the summer researching the case and reviewing the trial transcript to develop the relevant facts. I then reviewed all cited cases and selected the relevant precedent as it applied to the facts. I wrote the entire bench memorandum and submitted it to the term clerks for editing before delivering to judge. I also wrote a supplement to the bench memorandum. At the end of the summer, I had the opportunity to observe oral arguments on this case in Cincinnati, OH.

What excited you most about the externship?
I am interested in criminal law and I was excited about the topic I had to research. Initially I was intimidated by the project because I had not yet taken criminal procedure and I knew I had a lot to learn about the fourth amendment. This case was a great teaching case because it was straight forward with only one issue. It made it easier to grasp the issue and move forward with my research and analysis. Throughout the summer I looked forward to observing oral arguments and following through with my case. I also looked forward to observing professionals perform appellate arguments.

How did you find the externship?
I personally know the judge with whom I worked. I applied through the proper channels, but having the connection was helpful.

How did your education and experience at WLS prepare you for the summer?
My legal writing class definitely prepared me for the research and writing expectation. I believe the courses I took throughout my first year were good preparation for learning how to analyze cases. Given the workload of first year, I wasn’t intimated by the large amount of work I had to do and I felt like I had the appropriate skills to move forward in my externship.

What advice do you have for students looking for a judicial externship or looking to work as a judicial clerk after graduation?
I would encourage them to ensure they enjoy research and writing. Someone who does not is not going to like this experience. It is not a trial experience. If you are ok with going to the office every day and conducting research and writing, then it is a job for you. Also, you don’t necessarily have to have the best skills going in, because your skills grow during this experience. Enjoy the work and your skills will catch up. Perfection is not expected but you must be open to constructive criticism in order to grow.

I would definitely recommend working as a judicial extern. I had a great experience and it was a great learning opportunity.