Newswise — Students at UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law are learning first-hand how laws are made in a new internship program in Washington, D.C. called UCDC Law. This uniquely collaborative program among the UC law schools places second and third-year students in congressional offices on Capitol Hill, the U.S. Department of Justice, regulatory agencies and more. UC Irvine law students will eventually join their peers in this full-semester academic program.
"This is a direct and powerful way to expose students to aspects of lawyering in Washington and thereby broaden their thinking about professional paths available to them," says UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Chris Edley, Jr. "Our new classroom technology will also enable us to connect our students and experts in Washington with law students on campus, combining resources for dynamic interactive instruction.
"We truly value this exceptional partnership with our sister schools," says UCLA School of Law Dean Michael H. Schill. "As a law school committed to the public interest, this is exactly the kind of project we should be collaborating on. By combining our efforts, our students and our communities will truly benefit. I look forward to working together on this, and any future, joint project."
The UCDC Law program is a perfect fit for students who want to apply their legal skills to influence public policy. Just weeks after landing in Washington, D.C., second-year Berkeley Law student Dyanna Quizon '10 says the inaugural program has soared well past her lofty expectations.
"The level of responsibility we've been given is amazing," says Quizon, who works for the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and is one of seven Berkeley Law students participating in fulltime placements this semester. "I've been asked to help lead a substantive training session for federal employees on making programs more accessible to non-English speaking communities. A law student telling government officials what to do in important situations? Pretty incredible."
"It's an unparalleled opportunity for students to see first-hand how statutes, regulations, and policies are made, changed and understood," says UCDC Law program director Karen Lash. "They'll also be exposed to a range of career opportunities that are unique to Washington, D.C."
A companion seminar for students examines the unique role of lawyers in creating federal legislation. Weekly classes include talks by influential policymakers from all three branches of government, independent agencies, the media, lobbying firms and leaders of national nonprofit organizations. The line-up includes senior counsel from the House Office of Legislative Counsel, U.S. State and Treasury Departments, the Congressional Research Service, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, U.S. Senator Boxer's staff—as well as National Public Radio's legal reporter Nina Totenberg.
UCLA School of Law student Dan Laidman '10 is currently interning for NPR's Nina Totenberg. As a former reporter, the internship has provided him with a unique way to blend his legal and journalistic experience.
"UCLA Law has provided me with this wonderful opportunity to delve into the most pressing legal issues of the day and to help explain them to the public," says Laidman. "I read briefs and research legal doctrines, but I also interview litigants and lawyers and help assemble the boss's newscasts. I've been to the Supreme Court for oral arguments and the Senate for confirmation hearings—exceptional hands-on experiences that will definitely benefit my future work."
For Berkeley Law student Brian Israel '09, working in the Human Rights and Refugees Division of the U.S. Department of State's Office of the Legal Advisor, the program is a timely fit. With a background in international law, he's realizing a long-term career aspiration. The co-editor of the Berkeley Journal of International Law says the attorneys in his office are "extremely generous" with their time, and have involved him in an array of work including advocacy before a human rights commission, advising a State Department Bureau on a statutory mandate, and working on pending human rights treaties.
"I think practical training is the most important and most neglected aspect of legal education," says Israel. "Berkeley Law is really pushing to expand those opportunities for students, and this program is a perfect example. It makes for a more complete and valuable law school experience."
The University of California's top law schools now join just a handful of American law schools with academic programs in D.C.
"This program is unique in its effort to bring students' varied workplace experiences into the classroom," says Lash. "Our seminar plays a key role in exploring different ways to use a law degree, and learning about federal lawmaking and the range of players and influences involved in that process. It also gives students a taste of the entire law-making and law-changing process beyond the singular immersion they get in their workplace."
The program's first semester dovetails with the inaugural term of President Obama, inspiring a new generation of students committed to public service. The excitement is even greater now that several UC scholars have been tapped by President Obama to serve in Washington.
"It's been valuable on so many levels," says Quizon. "Being in Washington during the transition of a new administration, learning about the importance of networking, and just seeing first-hand how much impact lawyers have in shaping how the federal government operates. I'm applying legal theories of discrimination that I learned in class to real-life situations, and that's the best possible training for future lawyers."
About University of California, Berkeley, School of LawFor over a century, Berkeley Law has prepared lawyers to be skilled and ethical problem-solvers. The law school's curriculum—one of the most comprehensive and innovative in the nation—offers its J.D. and advanced degree candidates a broad array of nearly 200 courses. Students collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners working on complex issues at more than a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes, and clinical programs within its Boalt Hall complex. For more information, visit http://www.law.berkeley.edu/. For details about UCDC Law, go to http://www.law.berkeley.edu/3691.htm.
About UCLA School of LawFounded in 1949, UCLA School of Law is the youngest major law school in the nation and has established a tradition of innovation in its approach to teaching, research and scholarship. With approximately 100 faculty and 970 students, the school pioneered clinical teaching, is a leader in interdisciplinary research and training and is at the forefront of efforts to link research to its effects on society and the legal profession.