Penn State Law

Penn State Dickinson introduces new program in Washington, D.C.

This week, third-year law students accepted to Penn State Dickinson School of Law's inaugural Semester in Washington, D.C., program kicked off their final semester of law school working for government agencies and nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C.

Seven Penn State Dickinson students are living in Washington and earning academic credit for conducting legal work as unpaid interns for approved federal agencies or nonprofit groups. Student Kristy Roberts is interning with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, the nation's largest federal prosecutor's office, and is very excited and enthusiastic about the opportunities it presents. Roberts, who plans to specialize in criminal law, said that the timing of this opportunity could not be more perfect and sees her semester in D.C. as an "opportunity not only to learn, but also to network."

Participating students also are earning academic credit for a required seminar course that focuses on topics related to their internships. The seminar is being taught by Stanley M. Brand, a Washington attorney who previously served as general counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives and has taught law courses at the Georgetown University School of Law. Brand praised the program as "a great opportunity for law students to get real world experience in Washington," and stated that he was looking forward to sharing with the students the insights he has gained from his many years of experience working in high-level staff positions in Congress and on high-profile cases in private practice.

The Washington, D.C., semester program is directed by Penn State Dickinson professors Lance Cole and Camille Marion. Cole served as a legal consultant to the 9-11 Commission and as a special counsel in the U.S. Senate. Marion directs the law school's Field Placement externship program, which offers Penn State Dickinson students the opportunity to earn academic credit for working part-time as unpaid interns at a wide variety of state and local government offices in the greater Harrisburg area and at Penn State's University Park campus.

"This new Washington program will expand the many opportunities already available to our students here in Pennsylvania by permitting students to spend an entire semester in Washington focusing on a particular area of law," Cole explained. "The practice of law is becoming more and more specialized, and this program allows students to gain valuable expertise at the federal level while they are still in law school."

For this year's program, students could choose from internships at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia; the U.S. Department of the Treasury; the U.S.-China Economic Review and Security Commission; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; and committees of the U.S. House of Representatives. Cole and Marion expect to expand the program to meet student demand and to offer more internship opportunities, particularly at nonprofit public interest organizations in Washington, D.C.

Roberts said she expects that her internship with the U.S. Attorney's Office will allow her to gain more practical experience and build on what she's already learned from her clerkship with recently retired Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas President Judge George Hoffer. She also believes that her fellow law students should take advantage of the many opportunities that Penn State Dickinson offers to gain practical legal experience during law school, in addition to classroom instruction, and advises first- and second-year law students to "plan ahead" so that they can participate in the Semester in Washington, D.C., program during their last semester of law school if it will further their career goals.

Last Updated July 22, 2015