Capital Externs Begin Semester at Work
This semester, fifty-five Capital law students began work at many of the more than 150 sites that partner with the school as externship hosts. This semester students were placed at sites as diverse as the Ohio Supreme Court, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Franklin County Common Pleas, Domestic Relations and Probate Courts, Legal Aid Society of Columbus, the Ohio Attorney General, the Ohio State Trooper’s Association, the Columbus Public Schools legal department, the Excel Logistics legal department, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, and the Economic and Community Development Institute.
Students work with supervisors both at the work site and on the faculty to ensure a rich experience. Assignments have required past externs to draft pleadings, motions, or briefs; help prepare for and attend hearings; research critical issues; review policy; write newsletters and legal news blogs; interview clients or witnesses; or participate in office meetings and trainings.
Overwhelmingly, students find that working on real cases in real offices provides a meaningful context for their classroom lessons and gives them confidence to spring into fulfilling careers. In fact, a few externs have found future employment at the site of a past externship. As one site supervisor told Capital, “We love Capital students: They know how to write, how to work, and how to act.”
Director, Professor Susan Simms, who has built the program into its current successful model, summed up the program: “Externships complement the law school curriculum by adding an additional layer of learning about dealing with the real world over a core base of legal knowledge. I will paraphrase what one student wrote last term about his extern experience at the county public defender’s office: This was one of the most valuable learning experiences I had in law school. Not only did I learn to talk to clients and interact with opposing counsel, I also learned to be responsible, to think to identify problems, and to find solutions to them. It also shed light on the human aspect of the legal process that is not always evident in a classroom. The concrete skills I learned at this externship will translate well to any field and it will make me a more well-rounded lawyer.”
Making a Difference: Externships shift student’s career dreams to health care
Ryan Stillion entered law school intending to pursue a career as a criminal defense attorney. After working two years as a part-time law clerk in the felony division of the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office, Stillion became disenchanted with criminal law and decided to explore other areas.
Three externships in health-related placements changed his life’s trajectory, he said. Today, the fourth-year evening student’s ultimate dream job is to run a hospital.
“Although I loved the excitement of my job and my coworkers, I slowly became jaded because I was not affecting change like I’d hoped,” Stillion said. “I felt like I was merely providing damage control. It was time to branch out.”
Inspired by the political discourse surrounding the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Stillion signed up for the first of what would become three health care related externships. During the summer of 2012, he took an externship in the legal department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“Every day at Nationwide Children’s Hospital was filled with new and different experiences,” he said. “The health care arena is a vast, complex field that is constantly in flux. I had great mentors at the hospital who essentially taught me a crash course in hospitals and health law. I couldn’t learn enough about hospitals, and I still can’t.”
The next summer, he participated in an externship at the Ohio Hospital Association. Then, in the fall of 2013, he externed at the non-profit and non-partisan Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO), which analyzes key health issues for policymakers and state agencies. While at HPIO, Stillion completed the Business and Financial Concepts for Lawyers class at the law school taught by Ron Shuff, a CapLaw alumnus who previously worked as counsel for a Fortune 500 company.
“I learned at my externships that business skills will be required for nearly any position I’ll ever want to hold, so I jumped at the opportunity to take this class. I majored in English Literature and Political Science as an undergraduate, so I had no business training or business sense. I am very glad I took the class during my externship because it filled in my knowledge gaps, expanding my understanding of topics I researched and through meetings I observed.”
Stillion’s next steps are to take the Ohio Bar in July and to start earning a Master’s program in Health Care Administration this fall to learn the business aspects of running a hospital.
“Walking into Nationwide Children’s Hospital every day was an emotional experience,” Stillion said. “I walked to the office past sick children hooked to IVs who still laugh and play like they aren’t sick. I see myself running a hospital and making a difference. I want the daily satisfaction of knowing that I contribute in some small way to healing those children.”