Briefing Room


Summer internship deepens ‘obsession’ for 3L

August 15, 2013 | Students

Flipping through more than 350 pages of decisions and listening to more than a day’s worth of testimonies as part of an internship could be dreary for some law students. But for 3L Emily Dunlap, the paper cuts and courtroom jargon deepened her “obsession” with immigration law.

As a summer intern at the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Cleveland, Dunlap was exposed to the inside workings of the practice area. She drafted eight decisions – most consisting of four to seven hours of testimony, legal research, and 25 pages of legal writing – and worked directly with judges to analyze preparations made for cases by attorneys and the Department of Homeland Security.

The immigration review court in Cleveland handles all immigration cases in the state of Ohio and is staffed with three judges, an administrative staff, and one law clerk, to whom Dunlap and a fellow intern reported.

“There was a lot of learning on the job,” Dunlap said. “This was a really different angle on (immigration) than I’m used to. Usually I’m in the advocacy position, working with an attorney, in which I need to put together the best argument possible for the immigrant’s case.”

Dunlap’s first stint in immigration law came last year when she volunteered as an intern for Columbus practitioner Inna Simakovsky ’98.

“I was completely inspired by the work she did,” Dunlap said. “I absolutely fell in love with it.”

She was exposed to immigration issues firsthand even before that designation, though, when she was living and working in Florida for AmeriCorps VISTA a year before entering The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

“I met many people my age who faced serious problems that were products of a fairly broken immigration system. I realized that was an area of policy that definitely needed some work. I’ve just been chasing the issue ever since,” she said. “I am (now) obsessed with immigration law.”

Working for Simakovsky, Dunlap learned about the roles one must play as an immigration attorney. She was able to hone that knowledge in Cleveland over the summer and gain the perspective of what working in an immigration court entails, mostly through handing several cancellation of removal and asylum applications.

“(Asylum applications) were always interesting. Hearing about the things that are happening in other countries and why people are claiming asylum in the United States is fascinating. It pulled at my heartstrings.”

One of the greatest difficulties of her job, she said, was writing denials, mainly for cases in which immigrants had poor representation or didn’t meet their burden of proof or necessary standard of law.

“I hated writing those denials. I knew I had to. That’s where the law was. But I could just look at the situation and know it could have worked out better.”

Dunlap also had the opportunity to sit in on cases.

“I am so baffled by the amount I learned,” she said, recalling how she once witnessed in court how an attorney handled clients who had been caught lying during a hearing and observed how lawyers approached direct- and cross-examinations.

Having the perspectives of working as an immigration attorney and now in immigration courts, Dunlap has confirmed that immigration law is a sure fit for her, no matter what role she plays in the system.

“I am a natural activist and would be very happy working in an attorney position,” she said, but added she fully intends to apply for a two-year, post-graduate clerkship with the Executive Office for Immigration Review. “It depends on what shakes out for me.”