What I Did My First Summer-Stories from Students

It’s that time of year when 1L’s start thinking about what they might do over their first summer: work, clinics, classes, or a combination of them?  In this and upcoming Career Briefs, PDO features stories from current 2L’s about what they did their first summer.  This week’s Career Brief features Tessa Hansen, who did appellate work at Salt Lake Legal Defenders, and Melanie Grayson, intern with the US Department of Justice, Environmental Division.


What I Did My First Summer-Tessa Hansen, SJQ 2013, Salt Lake Legal Defenders, Appellate Division

Why did you come to law school?  I made up my mind to be a lawyer while I was in the Peace Corps – I wanted to continue to continue the do-gooderism professionally, and thought that a law degree could give me some skills and some gravitas as I tried to find meaningful public interest work.

What did you do last summer?  I worked with the Pro Bono Appellate Clinic, where I was placed with Salt Lake Legal Defenders (Appellate Division).

Why did you decide to do that?  I’m really interested in indigent defense, doubted I could find a paying job, and wanted the credits so I could qualify for residency.  Plus, I had heard from then-2Ls and 3Ls that it was a great experience.

If you had a job, clinic or fellowship:  How did you learn of the opportunity and what was the application and interview process like?  I learned of the opportunity through one of the PDO or clinic emails.  The application was all on paper and pretty painless.  My actual placement was determined by Professor Troy Booher – for that I just asked politely to work with LDA and got lucky.

If you had a job, clinic or fellowship: what did you do on a day to day basis? I researched case law, reviewed records and prepared indices, wrote the components of a brief, and reviewed work product at LDA.

What was the best part about what you did over the summer?  What did you learn? I got to work with a truly exceptional appellate lawyer, who guided my through writing a brief.  I learned a lot about writing at the appellate level and how the indigent defense system operates.

What was your least favorite part?  It was difficult to take a full load of summer classes and also feel like you were maximizing a really great opportunity to work with a potential dream employer.  Stressful, but worth it!

What advice do you have for the 1L’s who are thinking about what to do this summer? Be careful how you choose your summer classes, if you are taking them in addition to clinic work.  Be realistic with your commitments, and tell your clinic supervisor up front about those competing commitments.  Also, while this clinic was a really great experience, and I would strongly recommend it, I would also encourage 1Ls who are considering year-long clinics during their 2L or 3L year to consider a judicial placement for your first summer.  It give you an experience that is very valuable if ever applying for clerkships in the future while freeing up your year for other clinical opportunities.

Melanie Grayson (SJQ 2013), Intern, USDOJ-Environment and Natural Resources Division


For whom did you work and what did you do over the summer?  I worked for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in Washington, D.C. Specifically, I worked for the Natural Resources Section of ENRD, one of about a half dozen sections within the division. My section was largely defensive, representing the United States when certain agencies or departments were sued by citizens, environmental groups, Native Americans, etc. There were about 70 trial attorneys in my section. ENRD is one of the oldest divisions at DOJ and was a superb place to work.

What was the application process like and what was the interview like?  I applied for the DOJ summer internship in early December. I heard from the intern coordinators around final exams and had an interview two hours after my last final! The interview was a phone interview, with three attorneys. They asked me typical interview questions, including why I would want to leave the mountains of Utah for DC. They also asked about potential internal conflict since I used to work for an environmental group.

What do you think helped you in terms of their decision to hire you (experience, grades, personality)?  I think that my past experience in the environmental world was the biggest single factor that helped me secure the summer internship. I knew a lot about the major environmental statutes, without having taken Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law or Admin Law as of yet. I also tried to show my personality during the phone interview. After I received my grades for the fall semester, I forwarded them to the intern coordinators and tried to keep in touch until I heard word of whether I would be offered the internship. I do not know how much grades factored into the decision-making process.

What did you do day to day?  I did a variety of work at DOJ. I wrote part or all of 4 motions, including motion for summary judgment and a motion to dismiss for lack of standing. I was able to communicate with defendant intervenor’s counsel in preparing the motion for summary judgment. Turned out that Parsons Behle & Latimer (a large local law firm) represented the defendant intervenor! I also did extensive research in order to write internal memorandums. Finally, I attended two court hearings in DC District Court. One was a scheduling conference for the Cape Wind Project lawsuit and the other was oral argument in a case involving pesticide use and endangered species.

Best (and worst, if you want) parts of the job?  I loved my time at DOJ! I felt that the attorneys were very smart, motivated and hardworking. Yet, they also knew how to have a good time! ENRD offered a robust intern program and I was able to learn about the other sections, and even the other divisions at DOJ. Most of the attorneys in my section juggled many cases at once, so sometimes it was difficult to get immediate feedback on my work. However, I could almost always track an attorney down when they had more time and they were happy to offer constructive criticism

What advice do you have for those who are looking at the federal government?  About law school in general—especially for the 1L’s?  Apply! I never thought I would even receive an interview at DOJ, much less have an opportunity to intern there for a summer. You never know who is on the interviewing/hiring committee — we had a Utah alum in my section! Also, pursue what interests you. Either what interested you before you started law school, or interests that have evolved once you’ve gained exposure to new issues/areas of law.