Student Profile: Washington, D.C., Program Success
3L Yasmin Johnson came into law school with a clear idea that she wanted to end up working for the federal government in Washington, D.C. So when it came time to decide what she wanted to do during the summer after her 1L year, Moritz’s Washington, D.C., Summer Program was an obvious choice.
She knew where she wanted to go, but was uncertain on how to go about getting there. “Professor Swire helps you find an internship,” she said. “The good thing about the program is that it is individually tailored.”
The application for the program is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Taking 20 students a year to the nation’s capital, the program’s aim is not to have a cookie cutter internship for its participants.
Johnson’s interests in social issues surrounding child welfare, women’s rights, participation in the legislative process landed her an internship for the Office of Regulations and Product Management in the Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security.
“I became familiar with the political landscape of D.C.,” she said. “It also helped me figure out what aspect of government I was most interested in.” Reaffirmed in her desire to work in D.C. by the program, Johnson returned to the city the following summer and interned with the United States Attorney’s Office.
Her two summers in D.C. allowed her to become familiar with legislation and litigation, two areas of law that she had been considering for her future. “I encourage people to try different things to find out what their fit is,” Johnson said.
The D.C. summer program entails a class taught by Professor Swire two nights a week at George Washington University on ethics and Washington lawyering. “Throughout the summer, a number of recognized professionals lectured including Lanny Davis, former special counsel and spokesperson for President Clinton; Bruce Mehlman, founder of the government affairs firm Mehlman, Vogel, and Castagnetti; and Jodie Bernstein, first woman to be general counsel of EPA and HHS,” Johnson said.
The program also requires a seminar paper to be written on the topic of the internship being completed. “I gained a wealth of writing experience,” she said. “The seminar paper forced me to write an outline, then a draft, and I did a lot of citation checking. The principles I learned with Professor Swire are things I used in my second and third year at Moritz.” She says she developed strong writing skills thanks to the one-on-one feedback she received from Professor Swire. She also says that the writing experience she gained through the program helped prepare her for her position as editor-in-chief of the Midwest BLSA Law Journal.
Because of the ethics class and seminar paper, completion of the summer program satisfies credits for ethics and writing courses at Moritz.
The program runs from mid May until mid July, and participants have an option when it comes to lodging. Johnson lived in an apartment in downtown D.C. because she wanted the full experience of the city, while other students chose to stay in George Washington University dorms.
The summer in D.C. and her internship solidified her interest in the law. “It puts everything in context,” she said. “We learn things from textbooks, but this was more like, ‘real life.’”
Having experienced the city for two full summers, she is ready to go back. “D.C. is a faster paced city and its diversity of offerings is unique,” Johnson said. “I hope to do a government honors program after graduation in D.C.”
“My time in D.C. was both demanding and fun. In a typical week I balanced my internship with attending class and becoming familiar with Washington,” she said. “I also networked with other law students as the city is full of interns from around the country during the summer.”