Monday, November 9, 2009

U.S. District Court, Newark, New Jersey

By Shareif Abdelwahab

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work as an intern for the U.S. District Court in the Federal District of New Jersey. My time in chambers proved to be an invaluable experience as I got the chance to work closely with Judge Stanley Chesler on drafting legal memoranda, reviewing briefs and discussing the merits of the arguments presented by the litigants at oral argument. As a culmination to this experience, I successfully completed a judicial opinion that was subsequently approved and used by the judge. The satisfaction gained from that one project alone made the experience worthwhile.

Beyond these tangible gains, I also really benefited from sitting in on oral arguments and seeing legal practitioners apply their craft in everyday real life situations. It exposed me to the different litigating styles that practitioners employ, from the calm and light-hearted approach to the aggressive and in-your-face. One of my fondest memories of this entire experience was walking into oral argument and hearing one of our very own Georgetown Law professors advocate on behalf of the defendant. To see this professor in the court room, after having been taught by him in class, really relayed to me the disconnect that we as law students who study theory and doctrine have with our colleagues in the workplace who combine these principles with real life cases and facts in one coherent and persuasive presentation.

We as law students read a lot and, hopefully, learn a lot about the law. Often times however, we forget that the legal universe extends beyond the classrooms we learn in or the law schools we attend. Being a successful lawyer goes beyond knowing the Erie Doctrine or the UCC; it involves a combination of substance and style, intellect and elegance. My time in chambers this past summer could not have illustrated this point more then it did to me. My very assignment involved drafting a memo regarding a pro se petitioner's motion to amend or revoke his felony conviction under U.S.C. Section 2255. Admittedly, this task seemed intimidating at first; I had never learned about 2255 in my criminal law class. On top of that, I was expected to present my conclusion to Judge Chesler himself and explain the reasoning behind it. Luckily, I was able to learn so much about 2255 that I was able to think critically in applying the law to the facts of the petitioner's case. But it was my ability to articulate these thoughts verbally that served both as my biggest challenge and success of the summer.

All in all, I absolutely enjoyed my time in chambers and the mentoring I received from both Judge Chesler and his clerks. I feel that I have grown by leaps and bounds as a law student and individual as a result of this experience. For that, I am very grateful and thankful for EJF and their contributors in helping making this summer experience possible for me.

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