The Benefits of Externing

By Jessica Gallagher

The beginning of my second year has had a great start. Along with classes, I’m currently externing at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). I’ve always had an interest in Environmental Law and I felt that this would be a great opportunity to have some first-hand exposure to environmental issues. I’ve just completed my fourth week at KDHE and I think this is one of the first times I’ve actually sat back and reflected on those four weeks as a whole. I think the biggest take away that I have recognized is how much I have been able to apply the knowledge from my first year and even this semester.

For example, on my very first day of work I was asked to draft a “right to enforce” clause in a restrictive covenant. I can honestly say the only reason I did not have a mini-heart attack back at my desk was because I took Professor Pierce’s Drafting Contracts and Conveyances course over the summer. Although that course was only two weeks long, the material I learned and the practice of drafting have already proved to be invaluable. Aside from drafting, I’ve written memoranda on topics ranging from “work product being shared with the government” to “establishing polluted groundwater has caused a public nuisance.” These projects have utilized knowledge I’ve gained from Professor Mastrosimone’s Legal Analysis Research and Writing course and have also allowed me to apply new material I’ve recently learned this semester in Professor Duncan’s Environmental Law course.

The current project I’ve been assigned is assisting my supervisor in preparing for a hearing in October. Just observing a hearing is a highly educational experience, but preparing for one is on another level. In drafting questions to ask our witnesses, I cannot help but be thankful for Professor Kaye’s simulation exercises in our Evidence course (no matter how painful they can sometimes be). The confidence my supervisor has shown in allowing me to take the lead in this preparation, having only worked there a few weeks makes reading through the 5-inch binder of exhibits worth it all.

Aside from the projects, just being around other attorneys and having them there to answer any questions you may have is one of the great benefits of the externship program. When we’re not discussing actual cases or issues, there are times where they will inadvertently drop a piece of advice worth remembering. There are so many aspects of being a great lawyer and they go beyond your skills and knowledge – they speak to your relationship with your clients, your relationship with other attorneys, and establishing a credible reputation.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve only been at KDHE a few weeks but I have already been able to apply over a year’s worth of my Washburn Law education. Aside from gaining my supervisor’s approval, being able to do what’s expected at a level that is above what’s expected strengthens the confidence in my decision to attend law school, specifically Washburn Law. I look forward to the rest of my externship experience at KDHE and my second year as a law student.