The world may have shifted toward remote working conditions over the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did not stop Georgia State College of Law students from building on their classroom educations while receiving class credit with virtual externships.
Georgia State’s downtown Atlanta campus and proximity to work opportunities played a major role in many students’ decisions to attend the College of Law. Reid Hansen said that his previous employer often hired Georgia State Law graduates “because they are always good about the experiential learning.”
“They give you the theory of law, but you always get the chance to practice it,” Hansen added.
He kept this in mind while working his virtual externship with the Atlanta Regional Office of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
Hansen worked alongside attorneys, performing research for ongoing cases providing analysis of legal documents and materials that could be presented at trial and privilege issues that could arise.
“It makes everything more real,” Hansen said. “You're far removed from a lot of the older cases you read in class. Working in litigation this summer, you're dealing with cases that are happening right now 30 miles from where you live.”
That real-world experience was something David Harding (J.D. ’22) got plenty of at his externship with the Cobb County Superior Court.
Working as part of a three-person team under Chief Judge Reuben M. Green, Harding said he was impressed by the amount and diversity of work he was assigned. He welcomed the chance to apply what he learned in Civil Procedure and Evidence to real cases.
“It comes down to core competency and being able to apply that to your job,” Harding said. “You want to get your core knowledge in class, but it's more application of those principles in an externship."
The pandemic also altered the course of Lauren Meeler’s (J.D. ’22) externship with the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office.
In addition to handling her own work remotely, Meeler got a first-hand look at how the pandemic has affected those navigating the criminal justice system, including the lack of jury trials and a chance to confer with defense attorneys in real time during bond and plea hearings.
“It was just different seeing into the courtroom and seeing how things play out,” she said. “You get a lot of interesting insights into how the pandemic has affected criminal proceedings and the rights of prisoners.”
Saskia Olczak (J.D./M.S.H.A. ’22) had the chance to apply what she has learned in pursuit of both her law degree and her master of science in health administration at her externship with MagMutual Insurance company.
Olczak created educational materials and wrote articles for physicians regarding legal issues within the regulation of medicine. This summer in particular gave Olczak a unique experience, as much of her work related to the ongoing pandemic.
“We had to keep up with and explain all the new federal and state regulations in response to COVID-19 to all our providers,” she said. “I was also able to publish multiple articles for the company’s website that discussed different risk management topics.”
Though working remotely presented some challenges, it also gave students an early look at practices that could become more common as they move forward in their legal careers.
“We discussed key factors such as communication, core values and networking,” Olczak said. “It was helpful to review these concepts while working at our externship sites, especially when we discussed networking and communication while we were working virtually.”
Written by Alex Resnak