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Exploring Global Career Paths

September 08, 2023

Splitting his summer across 3 internships, David Alan Johnson L’25 accrued legal experience in both the public and private sectors.

I had a unique summer experience, splitting my work between three different internships. First, with support from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Global Justice Fellowship, I spent seven weeks at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York City (CIT) and then worked for four weeks at the General Counsel’s Office for International Affairs at the Department of Treasury (GCIA). I finished my summer working at a litigation boutique in Houston, Texas, for two weeks.

As my split summer demonstrates, I am interested in many things: international affairs, clerking, litigation, and more. After spending last summer as an SEO Law Fellow with a firm in Washington, D.C., I wanted to explore law outside of the Big Law context. My interest in international affairs led me to apply to the CIT and GCIA. I am also considering a career in the South, and the litigation boutique was founded by a Band 1 partner in international arbitration. Together, these three internships gave me access to an array of global career options and offered experiences relevant to both the public and private sectors.

Applying Lessons from 1L

My experience at Penn Carey Law undoubtedly prepared me to excel in each environment. When my fall 1L classes started, I thought: “How am I supposed to study for each class, all of which I do not understand that well?” This thought characterized most of the semester. By the spring semester, I understood how such training prepares law students to learn new subjects quickly, perform efficiently, and then address the next novel problem.

For example, my work at the CIT focused on international trade law, an area few students are exposed to during their first year. Immediately, I thought back to how I responded when I experienced difficult topics during my 1L year. I identified exactly what my judge desired, read through his prior opinions, and asked my judge and law clerks a plethora of questions to gain clarity on each issue.

By the time I lifted my head weeks later, I had completed a bench memo, analyzed complex briefs to generate and publish oral argument questions in the case docket for my judge, and engaged my judge and other law clerks in discussions regarding the appropriate rulings in pending cases. This pattern repeated at my other internships—receiving daunting tasks yet knowing that unfamiliar subjects would soon become more natural.

Experience Spanning Legal Practice Areas

Each internship also required that I apply knowledge gained during my law school classes, as well as utilize writing and research skills developed through Legal Practice Skills (LPS) with Senior Lecturer Silvia Diaz.

At the CIT, I touched civil procedure and administrative law within a nuanced federal district court with appellate capabilities; at GCIA, I researched on international law, property, constitutional law, and civil procedure as it related to treaties, foreign investment in the United States (CFIUS), congressional consultations, and international financial institutions (IFIs). My work at the litigation boutique ranged from drafting an opening statement for a summary judgment motion on the impossibility of a contract to writing a memo on the circuit split dealing with non-debtor third party releases in Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings.

As I embark on my career next summer working for a Big Law firm, I know each of my internship experiences, as well as my training through the 1L curriculum, will prove valuable to my growth as an attorney and public servant. Although working at a prestigious law firm provides exceptional training, remaining proximate to the community I come from—many members of which do not have the privileges I experience today—is what excites me most about the tools I am acquiring now at Penn Carey Law. I am grateful for my classmates, professors, and administrators for investing in my education and career.

Pathways to the Profession highlights Penn Carey Law students and post-graduate fellows as they launch impactful legal careers. From summer internships in the private sector to public interest post-graduate fellowships, these firsthand accounts of substantive legal work demonstrate the myriad opportunities available to Penn Carey Law students and graduates as they hone their skills and advance their career goals.

David Alan Johnson L’25 is a JD Candidate from Brownsville, Tennessee and a Dr. Sadie T.M. Alexander Scholar who is pursuing a career at the intersection of international law and public policy.

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