NYU Law Students in D.C.: The Guarini Government Summer Series

Since 2009, NYU Law’s Public Interest Law Center has facilitated the Frank J. Guarini Government Summer Series in Washington, D.C. Intended to support interest in federal government careers and connect current students with Law School graduates, the series sponsors discussions and panels with prominent alumni in government as well as networking events for students and alumni. Here are some first-hand accounts from NYU Law students about this year’s Guarini Government Summer Series.

Rebecca Hufstader ’15

I’ve never lived in D.C. before, and honestly, it can be a little intimidating. It feels like people are networking constantly, and that’s never been my strong point. But after an inspiring brown bag lunch at my internship on June 11 where both speakers emphasized the importance of a strong network, I vowed to turn over a new leaf. I was determined and a little nervous that evening as I walked down tree-lined streets past embassies and museums toward the home of Eric Koenig ’84 and Amy Schwartz in beautiful Dupont Circle.

Julie Brill and fellow alumni
Julie Brill '85 gives a talk to fellow NYU Law alumni at the June 11 networking event.

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the kindness and genuine interest the NYU Law alumni at the event showed my peers and me. Several alums approached me and offered insights about their jobs and advice about law school. I met a clerk on the D.C. Circuit, a senior advisor at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and a CEO. During the short program, we heard from new Dean Trevor Morrison and Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill ’85, who gave great advice about pursuing a career in both federal and state government.

Perhaps the best part of the evening, however, was seeing people I already knew. There is a large group from my section in D.C. this summer, and it was fascinating to hear about the diverse range of government agencies, legislative offices, and nonprofits where they are working. I met some rising 3Ls who shared advice about classes and professors. As I chatted with friends about the Supreme Court decisions we were waiting for and the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill we are working on this summer, I realized that those people are my true network. The diversity, passion, and kindness that characterize NYU Law are alive and well in Washington, D.C. this summer, and that means I don’t have to fear networking anymore.

For more photos from the June 11 networking event, click here.

Steven Couper ’15

NYU interns left work at their respective government agencies on June 17 to congregate at the Supreme Court. After going through security we met at the John Marshall statue, which was sculpted by Justice Joseph Story’s son, himself a Harvard-educated lawyer turned sculptor. At the statue we were met by our tour guide, a charming and knowledgeable Supreme Court aficionado recently transplanted to the D.C. area.

John Marshall statue
The Supreme Court tour for NYU Law students begins here.

We began our tour by going into the courtroom, where the nine chairs of the justices were strewn in an untidy fashion, not yet pushed in from the opinions delivered that morning. Inside the courtroom we saw the majestic architecture as well as the artwork that serves to provide a narrative of the evolution of law throughout human history. We learned how, for much of our country’s existence, the Supreme Court was relegated to back rooms of the Capitol, until Justice Taft was able to secure $9 million in funding to create a splendid and independent space for our nation’s preeminent judicial body.

Continuing on our tour, we were led through a series of doors to areas that cannot be accessed by the general public. Here we saw the court’s inner courtyard, adorned with sculptures of lions, owls, and turtles. Additionally, we visited a large hall that serves as a space for dinners and receptions when the justices entertain guests. Finally, we went to the Supreme Court’s library, which, while unused at the time, seemed like a secluded haven in which to do legal research.

As a rising 2L, I found it a rewarding opportunity to enter the fabled courtroom after a year of reading cases promulgated by the Court. For a law student considering a career in litigation, the opportunity to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court stands as the pinnacle of professional achievement. While this goal often seems remote or impossible, standing in the courtroom and seeing how surprisingly small it was made the goal of arguing a case before the court seem more attainable.

Also, as a recreational basketball player, I was inspired by the tour to formulate another professional goal: to one day play on the basketball court located above the courtroom. Dubbed by some as the “highest court in the land,” the space now also contains some weights as well as an area where Justice O’Connor led aerobics classes during her time on the Court.

Charlotte Spaulding Slaiman ’14

On June 24, Jenny Yang ’96, commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Chris Meade ’96, general counsel of the Treasury, spoke with NYU Law students during the keynote address of the Frank J. Guarini Government Summer Series. Both speakers had been Root-Tilden-Kern Scholars at NYU Law. Both told us about their unique career path and gave advice on how we can build similarly fulfilling careers for ourselves. Students also appreciated the opportunity to speak informally with these distinguished alumni at the reception.

Chris Meade and Jenny Yang
Chris Meade '96 and Jenny Yang '96 share their insight with students at the June 24 Summer Series event.

Mr. Meade and Ms. Yang both spoke about the importance of doing what’s right for yourself rather than what you think you ought to do, or what people tell you to do. It’s difficult to predict how your career will turn out, but by focusing on what they loved to do and what they thought was important, they each were able to blaze their own path.

The most important tip that the speakers agreed on was the importance of finding a mentor. Ms. Yang suggested that mentoring relationships can be built through working together in a difficult job. A supervisor or co-worker is more likely to invest in your future success when they see directly what you can do.

They also spoke about how our conception of what a public interest lawyer does has expanded over time. We now recognize that, for example, Ms. Yang’s civil rights plaintiff work at a for-profit firm can be just as valuable to the public interest as Mr. Meade’s homeless rights advocacy non-profit work. When Mr. Meade and Ms. Yang were in law school, they said, it wasn’t clear that government work was considered to be in the public interest. Now it is an important part of NYU’s public interest programming.

For more photos from the June 24 event, click here.