Summer Experiences: Judicial Intern for the Eastern District of Virginia

BuyrnSue Buyrn is originally from Chesapeake, Virginia. She earned her B.S. from Virginia Tech, double majoring in Philosophy and Psychology. In her second year at the Law school, Sue will be joining the staff of the Journal of Women and the Law, as well as serving as the Community Service Chair for the Student Bar Association.

After hitting the books hard and finally finishing my first year of law school, I was ready to see what the real world had to offer an aspiring lawyer. Knowing that I wanted to practice law in Virginia, I focused on job opportunities in the Commonwealth’s capital city…and I hit the jackpot.

At the conclusion of this summer, I will have spent fourteen weeks interning for Judge David J. Novak, a magistrate judge at the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond. While in the courtroom, I have observed all of the district court judges preside over a variety of civil and criminal matters: child prostitution, drug distribution, wire fraud, and identity document forgery, just to name a few. I have seen good lawyering and bad lawyering, and as time passes I have been able to identify the habits and skill sets that make an effective attorney.

Outside of the courtroom, I draft bench memoranda that are used to assist in pretrial settlement conferences. I then sit through the conferences with Judge Novak, and he teaches me how to gauge the value of a case. To date, I have been involved in settlement conferences focused on patent infringement and trademark infringement.

Last month, I turned in my first draft of a thirty-one page social security opinion. The issue is whether a man has been rightfully denied social security disability benefits. The case has been appealed four times before it gets to the federal court level. I spent weeks sifting through the plaintiff’s medical records, reading and re-reading the Administrative Law Judge’s opinion, and ultimately considered whether a substantial amount of evidence was provided to rightfully deny benefits to this man. Judge Novak will review the decision I made and offer me guidance on how I analyzed the issues and can better my legal writing skills.

I have never been so appreciative of a job. However, it is not the substantive law or the courtroom spectacle that make this job great. It is the people. Judge Novak and his team, Maria, Frank, Al, and Cheryl, have welcomed me and my fellow interns into chambers like we are a part of their family. They have created a program that has made this summer both educational and entertaining for us, organizing interesting field trips and bringing in outside speakers. In all ways imaginable, they work to help us succeed. Judge Novak and his law clerks have set great examples of what it means to be a citizen lawyer in today’s job market, and I have nothing more to say than thank you.