By the time Elisabeth Hutchinson graduated from Denver Law in May of 2013, she had completed seven externships in three years. Four were for credit, and she completed three as a volunteer. She worked in three federal government agencies, in two Colorado courts, for a Colorado state senator, and – her first externship, completed in the summer between her 1L and 2L years — in Anchorage, Alaska, for the Native American Rights Fund.
Liz believes in the efficacy and the value of out-of-the-classroom educational opportunities. “Classes are important,” she says, “but externships were essential to my formation as a lawyer. The offices and courts in which I worked taught me about the responsibilities that go along with being a lawyer. I have first-hand knowledge that the work I am doing can have a profound impact on the lives of my clients. You cannot learn that in classes alone.”
Working in the offices of three federal agencies – the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of the Interior, and the US Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division – provided very different perspectives on legal practice and opened Liz’s eyes. At the EPA, she saw how an agency functions, and at the DOJ’s ENRD, she gained knowledge of how government lawyers litigate. “Each organization has its own personality and energy,” she reports. “Each group of attorneys with whom I worked offered important lessons about being a lawyer.”
Liz adds that, alongside teaching how the law is practiced, her externship experiences “were the best possible networking opportunities. They put me out into the community of practitioners, working with lawyers and getting to know them.”
This fall, Liz puts her Denver Law education, including crucial lessons she learned about lawyering from over half a dozen externships, to work as a law clerk for Judge John R. Webb of the Colorado Court of Appeals. “I enjoyed law school,” she says, recounting her roles as a leader of the student-run Natural Resources and Environmental Law Society and as Managing Editor of the DU Water Law Review. “Now, however, I am ready for the next step.” -rw