Sean Hughes: 2L Summer Externship

By Sean Hughes

This past summer, as part of Hofstra Law’s Externship Program, I worked for the Immigration Law and Practice Division (ILPD) of the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. ILPD addresses claims to citizenship, edits appeal briefs from field offices, advises field offices on complex legal issues, and conducts its own appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

As a young law student with no professional legal experience, I was anxious to start work. My anxiety, along with a drive to impress my supervisors, pushed me to take Professor Selby’s Practice-Ready Research Skills class during Summer Session I — it was one of the best decisions I have made all year. Professor Selby made learning how to do legal research interesting and enjoyable. She gave me the tools I needed to research effectively, tools I used all summer at ILPD.

The best part about working at ILPD was the attorneys. They treated me like I was part of the team from the first day I walked into the office. I was fortunate to have Hofstra Law alumna Monica Vignier ’02 as my mentor. I knew I could go to her with any questions or problems I had, and she gave me good feedback on my written work. She really cared about my summer experience.

One project that stood out to me was when I redlined an appeals brief from a field office in St. Paul. ILPD reviews all of the appeal briefs to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Under the supervision of another attorney, I edited for grammar, style and content. My supervising attorney agreed with a lot of my comments, which made me feel validated about my education at Hofstra Law since we only do one appellate brief during our first year.

Another thing I really liked about ILPD was the variety of work that came across my desk. Some days it was asylum, other days it was claims to U.S. citizenship; I was rarely assigned busywork. My supervisors made sure that the work wasn’t impossible for me and that I felt comfortable approaching them if I ran into any problems. ILPD wanted me to create my own experience with ICE and explore as many areas of immigration law as I could. The freedom to choose work that interested me kept me engaged throughout the summer.

I learned a lot of valuable lessons while working at ILPD. Two of the most important were how to use foresight in researching a legal problem and how to use other people as my best resource. I think these lessons will help me during the rest of my time at Hofstra Law and beyond because I have a better idea of how to approach difficult issues, and a different type of insight into where a case might be going. I feel like these lessons helped me grasp legal concepts in a way that eluded me during my first year of law school.

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