Summer Employment Dispatch: Genevieve Urban L’18
Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the United States and abroad. This dispatch from Genevieve Urban L’18 is one in a series of firsthand accounts by Law School students about how their summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers. Urban is from Searcy, Arkansas. She attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts before teaching for three years in Rhode Island, where she also earned a master’s degree in education policy from Brown University.
This summer, I have had the great privilege of working as a judicial intern for the Honorable John C. Coughenour in Seattle, Washington. Judge Coughenour, who has served as Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and has made headlines for his holistic approach to sentencing, is so highly regarded that the opportunity to work for him was one that I couldn’t pass up! I’m very honored to have this experience.
I work closely with Judge Coughenour’s clerks, and many of my duties are similar to theirs: I conduct legal research, write memos, draft orders, and assist the Judge with pre-trial conferences. Because so much of my work involves research and writing, the skills I developed in Felicia Lin’s Legal Practice Skills class are put to use in chambers every day. Additionally, Professor Tobias Wolff’s Civil Procedure class provided a substantive background for nearly all of the assignments on which I have worked. I have drawn upon knowledge and critical thinking skills honed from all of my 1L classes, and overall, I’m pleased that the first year of law school provided the foundation necessary to tackle the assignments I’ve received.
Because I hope to pursue a federal clerkship after graduation, working with the clerks has been professionally enlightening and enriching. Evaluating party briefings can be intellectually exciting, and it is fulfilling to know that decisions made in chambers have the potential to significantly change lives, whether that is through awarding damages, issuing injunctions, or simply admitting certain pieces of evidence at trial. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this work is assessing attorneys’ motions and arguments and how they may ultimately play into a party’s litigation strategy. This type of tactical lawyering, whether its goal is to bring about social policy or to effectively advocate for clients, is what attracted me to law school, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have witnessed it in action from the perspective of working in chambers.
Going forward, this internship has certainly shaped how I will approach the next two years of law school. I will definitely prioritize taking Federal Courts to develop a better understanding of the federal court system and how it interacts with state courts and other branches of government. I also plan to take Evidence and Administrative Law, foundational classes whose topics are often salient to cases brought to court. Further, I will seek externships and clinics to get hands-on experience. Working in the court, I have seen first-hand the difference that high-quality lawyering makes, and direct experience — whether through clinics, externships, or pro bono — is such a great opportunity to prepare for practice.