2012 graduates leverage BU Law's practical skill-building opportunities to land clerkships
Working closely with a judge, training in trial techniques and strategy, making contacts within the legal community: a clerkship is more than a respected credential on a young lawyer's résumé. The unparalleled exposure to the justice system paired with the hands-on skill building and networking opportunities make working as a clerk one of the most coveted—and competitive—career paths that graduating law students pursue. We recently caught up with Blair Komar, Beth Rossi and Kyle Evans Gay to learn how their experiences at BU Law helped them land this highly desirable job.
Blair Komar, U.S. District Court, District of MassachusettsLooking back fondly on her time at BU Law, Blair Komar (‘12) has a word of advice for current students who are interested in clerkships at federal courts.
“Take advantage of the opportunities including clinics, journals, guest lectures and service trips,” says Komar. “BU Law offers a wide variety of opportunities for law students to find their passions and develop marketable skills. These opportunities are harder to come by in the professional world."
Having applied through the Career Development Office, this Class of 2012 valedictorian currently clerks for the Honorable Joseph L. Tauro in the Massachusetts District Court. Komar credits her BU Law experience for helping her gain the skills that have proved to be invaluable throughout her clerkship. For instance, she was a staff member on the Boston University Law Review, allowing her to develop technical editing skills, and she participated in the Civil Litigation Clinic, where she was able to put her legal skills into practice. She also found the rigorous BU Law curriculum further enhanced her lawyering skills.
“The BU Law exam format and my experience in the Civil Litigation Clinic helped hone my issue-spotting and analytical skills, which enable me to assist the judge in complex legal cases,” says Komar. “ The writing program also gave me foundational research and writing skills that I built on throughout my law school career that are crucial to my day-to-day clerkship work.”
She also attributes her success to grants she received for her first- and second-year summers through the Public Interest Project (PIP), one of the most active student organizations at BU Law.
“These grants gave me the flexibility to pursue public interest positions that I was passionate about and to gain substantive legal experience,” says Komar.
At her clerkship, her duties include attending hearings and assisting in research and writing. Additionally, she has been able to explore a variety of legal issues and gain a deeper understanding of different areas of law.
“My clerkship has been an incredibly educational experience,” says Komar. “I feel challenged every day. This year has given me the confidence and skills to enter the legal profession, take on complex cases and excel.”
That being said, Komar has one final piece of advice for current students.
“I would recommend that you take the Federal Courts class, focus on your school work, and work closely with the BU Law Career Development Office to find a clerkship that is a good match for you,” says Komar.
Beth Rossi, U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the SIxth CircuitA Public Interest Scholar with a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Rossi ('12) had been crafting a dream for years. Her goal was to launch a career in international human rights with the U.S. State Department on the strength of two graduate degrees—a master's in international relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University and a J.D. from BU Law. She initially expected to find her primary inspiration through her studies in international relations. In fact, she recalls, “I viewed legal study as a complement to my primary career objective of policy work.”
As soon as she began classes at BU Law, however, Rossi found the energy and commitment of the community infectious.
“It struck me during my first year that I could really learn to love working in the law,” she remembers. “The intellectual energy at BU Law was so invigorating.” Following her passion, Rossi immersed herself in a combination of criminal law and immigration and human rights law.
She worked with BU Law's Career Development and Public Service Office to land a summer internship with Legal Aid of Cambodia. In Phnom Penh, she had an epiphany while researching how various child-friendly justice systems could serve as models for Cambodia. “When I discovered articles describing the deplorable juvenile justice facilities in the southern U.S.,” she says, “I realized that I was in the wrong place. I had been so focused on international human rights that I was overlooking problems in my own backyard.”
Back at BU Law, Rossi reset her priorities to focus on the intersection of immigration and criminal law. She enrolled in the Asylum & Human Rights Clinic, where she won asylum for a woman whose immigration status had been in limbo for 15 years. She became the driving force behind BU Law's new Immigration Detention Clinic, launched in 2010. Additionally, Rossi was a student in the Criminal Litigation Clinic and the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia.
On top of her direct advocacy work, Rossi conducted extensive legal research and wrote academic papers and contributed to amici briefs on these topics. She also directed the Edward Stone Moot Court Competition, won Best Oralist for the Stone Moot Court Competition, and won Best Team Brief and Second Team in the Albers Moot Court Competition. She also participated in the BU Law Pro Bono Program.
“Being in this community was so motivating,” says Rossi. “I felt empowered to help meet the legal needs of marginalized populations.”
Today, Rossi is learning the justice system from the other side of the bench. Her wealth of experience researching, advocating and writing on issues of national importance has earned her two different clerkships. Currently, she is a law clerk for Judge Paul Barbadoro in the U.S. District Court in NH, and in the fall she will begin a clerkship with Judge Martha Daughtrey on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Nashville, TN.
Certainly gaining this behind-the-scenes look at how district and federal courts operate is another step in the right direction for achieving her dream.
Kyle Evans Gay, Delaware Supreme CourtA recent law school graduate with aims of becoming a criminal prosecutor, Kyle Evans Gay (’12) is thrilled to be clerking for a Delaware Superior Court judge.
“It’s a great opportunity to see behind-the-scenes—how the court functions and how the judges review pleadings and think about the issues,” says Gay. “It’s also an excellent opportunity to network in Delaware, which has a small bar, so you meet and get to know other attorneys.”
Gay’s adventure started before graduating from BU Law, when she moved to Delaware for her husband’s job and to be closer to family. She took advantage of the Semester-in-Practice program, working for six months in criminal appeals for the Delaware Department of Justice, after which her boss sponsored her for a fellowship. But when that boss applied to become a judge and the Delaware Senate approved his appointment, the Honorable Paul R. Wallace took Gay on as a clerk.
“Without the Semester-in-Practice program I wouldn't have been able to get in down here,” says Gay. “Without the fellowship, I wouldn't have been able to continue to do that great work and continue to build connections in the community, which led me to my clerkship.”
“The criminal clinic was probably what prepared me the most for what I experienced during my Semester-in-Practice. I had the opportunity to do the type of work I wanted to do after law school.”
Gay also notes how the clinic’s low student/faculty ratio allowed her to work closely with faculty to develop and refine her employable skills.
“Those were the professors who had my back—gave me recommendations for, and support in, my fellowship,” says Gay. “Employers in the public realm don’t necessarily have the money to train you. The entire clinical allows you to build those skills you need to show employers.”
Similarly, participating in moot court gave Gay experience in writing briefs, which has been critical working in an appellate unit. She felt more than adequately prepared to jump into briefing because of the thorough feedback she received in the program.
Noting the wide array of practical skill-building programs BU Law offers students, her advice to current students is—take advantage of them!
“For me it was always working, whether it was volunteering, clinic or Semester-in-Practice,” says Gay. “You always have to keep in mind how are you going to make yourself marketable and how BU Law can help you. Find a program that will help you build the skills you need to get where you want to go.”