For the last three semesters Dina Quondamatteo 2L has worked for New York Supreme Court Justice Ira H. Margulis ’75, a Hofstra Law alumnus, at the Queens Supreme Court, Criminal Term, through the Law School’s Externship Program. The externship has allowed her to experience firsthand what it is like working in the judicial system and establish valuable connections in her chosen field.
Which classes prepared you for the externship?
I must say all of my classes prepared me for my externship, but specifically, Legal Analysis, Writing & Research and Criminal Law.
I expected the externship to be a valuable part of my law school studies by enhancing my academic work and permitting me to employ features of my knowledge and past work experience, which it did. I was able to take on real-life projects by applying my analytical abilities and education from Hofstra Law and was able to complete the assignments both confidently and with zeal.
What was your favorite project?
My absolute favorite project was writing my first decision for the Judge. The most difficult and exciting part of the process was figuring out how a judicial mind works: How do judges think? In answering this question, I had to remind myself that I was not writing a motion or appellate brief.
One of the most important guidelines I remembered from legal writing was always to remind myself that my appellate brief was a “manual” showing the judge why to decide in my favor. A decision, in a sense, is the inverse. I broke down the arguments, I found secondary sources and cases that supported the denial, and was able to come up with my first full draft.
That was a truly memorable moment and an unequivocal favorite project which I was afforded the opportunity to complete!
What did you find most challenging?
The most challenging task I had to tackle was writing a Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) decision. As a seasoned student and mother, writing a SORA decision is a topic that is difficult to swallow, especially when it applies children. One cannot help but feel apprehensive, so I changed my thought process and directed it to the task: the law.
I analogized being an attorney to that of a doctor: A doctor takes an oath to uphold professional ethical standards — devoid of emotions — and to honestly use their judgment in fulfilling their job. Similarly, attorneys and judges take an oath to uphold professional and ethical standards, specifically, to focus on applying the law to the facts.
With this thought process, I was able to overcome my apprehension and redirect my focus to the task at hand.
How do you think this experience will prepare you for practice?
One reason I chose to work as a judicial extern is because it will afford me an opportunity to establish valuable contacts for networking and acquire additional law-related work experience to list on resumes and employment applications.
Through this practical experience, I hope to come closer to and prepare for a solid career with the Office of Court Administration. What better place to gain exposure and prepare for practice in my desired field than a placement in the judicial system?