At 11:30 p.m. one November evening in 2008, the night before sign-ups for the Washington, D.C., Summer Program, Adam Heider ’11 answered his phone.
“There are already five people in line,” his friend told him.
Heider, then a 1L, knew he wanted to participate in the D.C. program the summer after his first year of law school. The program was a major reason he chose The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law over law schools located in the D.C. area. But the program only accepted the first 20 students who signed up. So, he headed over to campus and prepared for a long night.
Heider and his friends only got a few hours of sleep that evening, camped out in the hallway playing cards, but the next morning, they got on the list.
“There were people who didn’t get to do the program because they didn’t sleep in the law school,” Heider said.
Program Director Peter P. Swire said, “I felt like Bruce Springsteen.”
Last summer Moritz celebrated the 10th year of its popular Washington, D.C., Summer Program, created for students who want to experience the legal field in the nation’s capital. Swire, the C. William O’Neill Professor in Law and Judicial Administration, has headed the program since its inception. After the 2009 summer, the policy changed to an application process rather than first come, first served, so as not to encourage bringing sleeping bags to the law school.
Students participating in the program earn three credits for working at a legal externship at a government agency or nonprofit group. They also take a two-credit course, The Ethics of Washington Lawyering, taught by Swire.
“Students get experience on the national stage,” he said. “They get real-life experience in a particular subject area, like international trade, health care, banking. Having that kind of substantive experience gives them something to build on as they go forward in their careers.”
Perhaps the program’s biggest draw is the externship component: Students’ placements are on par with any law school in the country. Externships in recent years have included the U.S. departments of Justice, Energy, Education, and Homeland Security; the Center for American Progress; the Consumer Federation of America; the Federal Communications Commission; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; Appleseed; and more.
Students accepted into the program work with Swire to obtain an externship for the summer, mixing their interests with Swire’s knowledge and connections. Swire said in the 10 years of the program, all but one student has secured a summer externship.
“We have built up a good history with finding jobs,” Swire said.
Program made decision easy
Just as students choose Moritz for their school-year curriculum, many D.C. Program alumni chose to attend Moritz because of the opportunity to spend the summer working in Washington. Moritz Associate Dean for Admissions Kathy Seward Northern said the D.C. Program is particularly attractive to prospective students who are interested in public service.
“We have a significant programmatic focus on government, legislation, and election law,” said Northern, “and the D.C. Program is an important aspect of that concentration.”
Some Moritz students opted to participate in the program to add to previous D.C. experience and expand their connections. Amy Valentine McClelland ’06 worked at lobbying firm QGA Public Affairs during the summer of 2004. She previously worked on Capitol Hill before enrolling at Moritz and wanted to get more experience in the political arena.
“One reason I was interested in Ohio State was because they had a big focus on legislation and politics, with the mandatory Legislation class, ” McClelland said. “Ohio State had more flavor in the national political scene than I expected. It seemed unique for a school in Columbus to have a strong presence and active alumni network in D.C.”
Heider learned about the D.C. Program at Admitted Students’ Visitation Day. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Ohio State, Heider initially leaned toward attending a different school for his law degree. Hearing about the D.C. Program, as well as Moritz’s election law program, changed his mind, however.
“The D.C. Program was one of the main reasons I chose Ohio State,” Heider said. “I thought I wanted to explore other horizons, but this was a way I could stay in Ohio and still live in D.C.”
Summer experiences unparalleled
In the summers of 2011 and 2012, the Moritz D.C. Program legal ethics course didn’t just focus on the White House; they held class in the White House.
The previous two summers, Swire’s legal ethics class has held sessions in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the West Wing of the White House, with White House counsel as the featured speakers. Afterward, students were allowed to walk through the building and take pictures by the West Wing, an opportunity seldom afforded to the public because the president holds day-to-day operations there.
It’s no surprise, then, that Moritz alumni have found the in-class experience quite memorable. The class features speakers from every sector of the federal government and Capitol Hill.
“It’s been a way to have very good guest lecturers,” Swire said. “We have had a top lawyer for the CIA, White House counsel, ethics officers in Congress, (Deputy Director) Brian Deese from the National Economic Council. We’ve had a range of people talk about how they make ethical decisions.”
For Scott Clayton ’10, the class speakers were a highlight of the D.C. Program experience.
“A number of really great speakers visited, including John Podesta (former chief of staff to President Clinton), to talk to our class,” Clayton said. “He brought in lobbyists, and people with other points of view. It was all about trying to give us the best experience and give us real-life examples of what it means to work in D.C.”
McClelland felt that the variety of visitors to the class made the summer well-rounded.
“I was so Hill-oriented from working there before and from working at a lobbying firm that centered on Capitol Hill, that it was interesting to get others’ insights,” McClelland said.
Of course, students’ externship experiences have been unforgettable as well. When Heider worked in the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in the summer of 2009, he found himself right in the middle of the debate over the health care bill.
“I was in D.C. the summer they were marking up the health care bill, and Sen. Brown was on the health committee,” Heider said. “I would go and observe the hearings and hear the arguments. Half the stuff didn’t get into the bill but there was so much debate about it. It was so interesting.”
Externships inspire careers
Clayton had a primary career goal when he decided to participate in the D.C. Program the summer after his first year at Moritz: find a job with the federal government. In the summer of 2008, Clayton worked in the U.S. Department of Commerce in the International Trade Administration in the Office of Technology and E-Commerce. During his externship he worked on the Safe Harbor Principles between the U.S. and the European Union to ensure data privacy protection.
Clayton went on to earn a Certificate in International Trade and Development at Moritz. He is now a foreign service officer at the U.S. Department of State.
“My experience at the ITA helped confirm that I wanted to work for the federal government,” Clayton said. “The position opened my eyes to what the federal government does. It helped me figure out where I wanted to go after law school.”
The Washington, D.C., Summer Program provides a resume boost for first-year law students, but it also offers a sense of place in the legal world. Alumni said they especially embraced the program because of Swire, who enhances the experience by hosting an annual cookout at his house and inviting D.C. Program alumni.
“Law school your first year can be so intimidating,” said Heider, now an attorney advisor with the Social Security Administration. ”But Professor Swire is so accessible for someone who has accomplished so much in government.”Tags: Adam Heider, Amy Valentine McClelland, Kathy Northern, Peter Swire, Scott Clayton