November 23, 2011
For her 1L summer, Jessica Levin, 2L worked as a legal intern in the General Practice Unit of the Office of the General Counsel of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE).
In an office environment that she describes as “high energy and bustling,” Jessica dived into projects on various topics in education law which spanned the local, state, and federal levels. Jessica’s assignments included drafting decisions in student suspension appeals; writing memos on various education law issues including free speech and student discipline; and attending administrative hearings for teachers as well as oral arguments for high profile cases involving the DOE.
During her summer, Jessica learned how to review a record and craft an appeal decision, practiced interpreting statutes and regulations, and honed her legal research and memo writing skills. “I was amazed at how education law touches on so many other aspects of law and policy, such as labor law, contracts, and due process issues,” she says. She notes that her involvement in student groups such as Advocates for Education, along with the knowledge and skills gained from HLS in courses such as Legal Research and Writing, Legislation and Regulation, and Professor Bartholet’s “Child, Family, State,” were particularly applicable to her job.
Jessica was first surprised by the vast size of the DOE and its legal office, which is located in the historic Tweed Courthouse building. However, a collaborative organizational culture, facilitated by an open floor plan, helped make it much less overwhelming. On a regular basis, the General Counsel (an HLS alum) came to speak to lawyers in the unit and made time to have lunch with all the interns and answer their questions.
Jessica’s time at the NYCDOE confirmed her desire to work in education law and provided her a strong foundation for working in other education law settings. Her summer experience prompted her to take classes as a 2L this year, such as Evidence and Fourteenth Amendment, which she says will be useful for related work down the road. Her advice to other HLS students interested in pursuing a similar path in education law: “I think an experience at the local level is very valuable for anyone who wants to work in education law, since so much of education — both law and policy — happens at the district level.”
Written by 1L OPIA Section Representative Connie Sung