Clinical Externship Program Sees Law Grads Supervising Law Students

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By: Prof. Phil Broadhead

The Clinical Externship Program, established at the law school in 2002, has former externs who have graduated and are working in district attorney’s offices throughout the state. Having come full-circle in their careers in law, these prosecutors now supervise externs from the UM School of Law’s Class of 2016. John L. Herzog Jr., Assistant District Attorney for the Fourth Judicial District, was an extern with the Clinical Externship Program in 2010 and now finds himself supervising law students who have been placed in the Greenville office. “Students who participate in the Externship Program have a huge advantage over other law students with the practical, hands-on aspect of working in a DA’s office,” said Herzog.  He should know. As an extern in 2010, he worked with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney in Oxford, and the local state DA’s office during his time in law school. “From going to court, writing and responding to motions in pending cases, and dealing with people daily, externs find themselves removed from the academic context and work in court on real cases.”

During the placement of Clinical Externship student Weathers Virden (Class of 2016) by Clinical Professor and Director of the Clinical Externship Program Hans Sinha this past summer in the Greenville branch of the District Attorney’s Office, ADA John Herzog supervised Virden in his day-to-day duties. “Every day in the office brought something new,” Virden said. “With John Herzog as my mentor, I was able to take on these new challenges by first talking about the job at hand, then doing the work. John always included the ‘why’ we did criminal law practice in a particular way.” Virden’s experience also took him out of his comfort zone. “I had no idea what a “bond hearing” was, but with two hours to prepare, and a seasoned attorney at my side, I found going to court makes you a master of courtroom procedure.” Virden also observed, “The Clinical Externship Program is a dynamic learning experience in contrast to the static learning you find in the classroom. The concepts I struggled with in class became very clear simply by doing them. Learning how to speak to a judge in court was a huge thing. I probably would not have chosen to speak in court, but John pushed me into the fire, and afterwards I thought, ‘That wasn’t so bad’ and was ready to go again. Experience like this gives you confidence.”

With experiential learning becoming the norm for third-year law students, the networking opportunities for clinical students is enormous. In fact, four ADA’s in the Fourth Judicial District who were appointed by District Attorney Dewayne Richardson are former Clinical Externship students. Herzog has seen the value of externships from both sides now, and encourages law students to take advantage of the opportunities clinical programs impart. “Mississippi has such an unmet need for legal services. The Clinical Externship Program is an outstanding opportunity for learning how to practice while serving others.”