Sworn In: Externship Program Provides Real World ExperiencePosted: 3/13/2018
The University of Tennessee College of Law offers students real world experience through its externship program. The law school’s partnership with the District Attorney General’s Office of the 6th Judicial District was the first externship course offered through the school more than twenty years ago.
The externship is available to students who are at least halfway through their studies and have foundational classes under their belts. Students in the prosecutorial externship program are placed in either the District Attorney General’s Office for the 6th Judicial District or the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and can earn 6 hours of course credit. The student externs work under the supervision of experienced assistant district attorneys or assistant U.S. attorneys to prosecute actual cases on behalf of the offices.
Douglas Blaze, the director of the Institute for Professional Leadership at the UTK College of Law shares, “The program is a wonderful collaboration between the District Attorney General’s Office and the law school to provide our students with a terrific educational opportunity to not only learn about the criminal justice system from the prosecution perspective, but to be full-practicing lawyers representing the State in criminal prosecutions. Students learn through direct experience what it means to be a lawyer and how to lawyer.”
Assistant District Attorney General Joe Welker oversees the externship program for the District Attorney General’s Office and works hard to match students’ interests and learning objectives with the best placement in the Office. He also works to ensure that students have the opportunity to perform a variety of tasks, like conducting a hearing, announcing a plea, interviewing officers and victims, and conducting negotiations. He, also, works to give every student a jury trial, if at all possible.
“Our partnership with the University of Tennessee College of Law helps ensure that our future members of the bar receive the best education and training. The opportunity to practice in the court room while receiving instruction from professors and practicing professionals is invaluable. We’ve watched our externs go on to have exciting careers, and a number have dedicated their professional careers to service, right here in Knox County,” states District Attorney General Charme Allen.
The Office currently has nine externs for the 2018 Spring Semester, placed in various special prosecution units ranging from White Collar to Child Abuse to Career Criminals. Faith Mote took some time out of her busy schedule to tell us about her experience as an extern. She is currently externing in the Child Abuse Unit and the Major Crimes Unit.
Why did you choose to extern with the District Attorney General’s Office for the 6th Judicial District of Tennessee?
I chose to extern with the DA's Office because of my interest in becoming a prosecutor after graduation. Law school doesn't really prepare you for real life situations regarding trial preparation, trials, and communication with witnesses and victims. I knew if I wanted to become a prosecutor that I needed real world, hands-on experience. When I decided to come to law school, I knew I wanted to be an advocate for individuals who couldn't speak up for themselves. Through personal and professional experiences, I was led to the field of criminal prosecution. Someone must advocate for those whose voices have been silenced by criminals and I am thankful for the opportunity to advocate alongside seasoned ADAs in the Knox County Office.
What has your experience been like so far?
My experience has been great so far! The prosecutors I have worked with have taken the time to teach me the law and legal process over the course of assignments which has been extremely helpful. The Knox County Office makes me feel unafraid to ask questions and say, "I don't know how to do that" in order to enhance my learning and experience. I've been entrusted with more tasks than I thought I would be from second-chairing trials, writing motions in limine, and arguing motions and sentencings in court. These opportunities are the experience I was looking for when I first started externing at the DA's Office and have proven invaluable in law school and interviews with future employers.
Has anything surprised you? And/or is the experience what you anticipated?
I wouldn't say anything necessarily surprised me, but I was reminded of a course that described being an ADA as difficult. There's a constant juggling of cases and having to deal with issues that the general public doesn't have to be exposed to. Being an ADA requires you to be understanding and sympathetic toward victims while at the same time tough and strict toward perpetrators who have violated the law. It truly is a multi-faceted job that requires you to deal with difficult issues in order to bring justice for victims.
In what ways do you anticipate this experience will help you in your future endeavors?
Many people in my law school class have said that they want to be prosecutors, but haven't externed in any of the local offices. I think this job would be extremely difficult without having experience before employment. There are court procedures and rules that are not taught in law school and would be difficult to pick up on by just throwing someone into the courtroom.