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Penn Law students argue in front of Third Circuit in externship

April 16, 2018

Thanks to a unique partnership with the Dechert LLP law firm, students from Penn Law have access to an opportunity most law students never get — the chance to argue in front of a federal court of appeals.

As part of the Federal Appellate Externship, four third-year Law School students this year have the opportunity to write an appellate brief in conjunction with supervising lawyers from Dechert and make an argument in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The Dechert lawyers have been appointed by the court as pro bono counsel, and the students are able to make the arguments under Rule 46.3 of the Third Circuit Local Appellate Rules.

The Federal Appellate Externship is supervised by Louis S. Rulli, Practice Professor of Law and Director of Penn Law’s Clinical Programs. “The externship is an incredible opportunity for students to work closely with partners and associates at the Dechert law firm to sharpen their legal research and brief writing skills and present oral argument to the Third Circuit on behalf of their clients,” said Professor Rulli.  “At the same time, the students provide a valuable service to the Court and, most importantly, to indigent litigants who would not otherwise have the assistance of a lawyer on matters that hold such high stakes for them.” 

Christine C. Levin, Partner, Dechert LLP, who directs this Externship said, “The externship program is one of many elements of Dechert’s strong commitment to pro bono representation and dovetails with our commitment to provide valuable hands-on experience to lawyers in the early stages of their professional development.  We all greatly enjoy working with such a talented and dedicated group of students and, as should always be the case in academics, we learn from them as well.” 

“The Federal Appellate Externship will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of my time at Penn Law,” said Teresa Akkara L’18, who was also on this year’s winning Keedy Cup team. “I’ve spent this year working on a 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (right to counsel) claim for an indigent prisoner. Working on this case with my supervising attorneys at Dechert has given me insight into client management, strong appellate writing, and oral advocacy.” 

“The highlight of the experience came at the subsequent drafting stages, during which the attorneys provided structural and stylistic edits to my draft and answered any questions I had about their editing processes and decisions, whether major or minor,” said Chase McReynolds L’18, who had the unique opportunity of helping Dechert attorneys write an impartial amicus brief after the Third Circuit appointed the firm as Amicus Curiae counsel in Murray v. City of Philadelphia. “Mr. Sachse and Ms. Mossman [the attorneys from Dechert] helped teach me how the tone of a “friend of the court” brief should differ from a classic advocacy brief.”

“I’ve appreciated the opportunity to conduct independent research and develop a theory of the case,” said Judah Bellin L’18 who represented a federal prisoner in his Third Circuit appeal. “My supervising attorneys have shown me how to write more precisely and persuasively. And Professor Rulli and the other externship participants were outstanding resources during the brief-writing process. It’s been an honor to participate in this externship, and I know I’ll use the lessons I’ve learned throughout my legal career.”

Greg Bischoping L’18 drafted the opening and reply brief for an immigration case before the Third Circuit and will be arguing in front of the court if it chooses to grant oral argument. “I have learned so much from playing a central role in this appeal process. My writing has improved immeasurably, but more significantly, I have experienced what it means to represent the interests of a real human facing life-altering consequences. Overall it has been a unique and irreplaceable experience that I will carry with me long into my future career.”