Thursday October 5, 2017

From The Classroom To The Courtroom

What helped one student go from casebooks to actual cases.

As Brittany Gorsuch stood before a judge for the first time with her intern’s license representing the city of Dayton, she was focused but nervous.

“I was so obsessed with what I was going to say and how do I say it legally,” Gorsuch says.

A few months earlier, a courtroom is the last place it seemed like Gorsuch would be over the summer.

“I’m not one of those people who says I want to be a litigator,” Gorsuch says. “I wasn’t really looking for that externship.”

Gorsuch had something else in mind, until she talked with Adjunct Professor Andrew Sexton, who is also Assistant Prosecutor for the city of Dayton. She decided to apply and was accepted to extern with the Dayton Prosecutor’s Office.

“I especially chose it because it was out of my comfort zone,” Gorsuch says. “It was something I’d never experienced before.”

Gorsuch says that first time in front of a judge is something she would never want to experience again, but she learned from it with the help of the lawyer overseeing her externship.

“It was, ‘This was what I saw that went wrong and this is how we fix it,’” Gorsuch says. “’This is how you’ll do better.’”

By the end of the summer, she was comfortable trying a case.

“I was actually getting cases and working on cases and seeing those cases through in the afternoon,” Gorsuch says.

Professor of Externships Denise Platfoot Lacey says that growth is one of the biggest benefits of the School of Law’s externship program.

“One of the main things I see happen over the course of a semester is that students gain confidence in their ability to be a lawyer,” Platfoot Lacey says.

The externship program gives students the chance to do the work of a lawyer.

They also have options across the country on where they’d like to do the externship, giving them the opportunity to experience something new or to get to know the city they would like to practice in after graduation.

But no matter where they go, the idea is to give them a learning experience they couldn’t get in the classroom.

“It’s different when it’s real life and you’re seeing real decisions being made,” Platfoot Lacey says.

Some students finish their externships knowing that’s the kind of job they want after graduation. Gorsuch isn’t so sure. But she knows whatever she decides on, her experiences in the courtroom will help her going forward in bar preparation and her career.

But there is one downside. After experiencing the adrenaline rush of the courtroom, the classroom can seem a little less exciting.

“I hate going back and reading a casebook now because I’ve seen how it works in real life,” Gorsuch says.

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