Law School launches "Duke in D.C."

August 29, 2008Duke Law News

Aug. 29, 2008 — Duke Law School’s “Duke in D.C.” program got its official launch at an Aug. 28 information session for students. The program, intended for those interested in public policy at the federal level, will provide semester-long externships in Washington, D.C., for second- and third-year students.

“I’m awfully excited about this opportunity,” said Christopher Schroeder, director of the Program in Public Law, who is spearheading the Duke in D.C. program. “One thing we do in the Program of Public Law is encourage people to look to the public sector, not necessarily for their entire career, but as part of a career. And I think exposing them to the realities of these situations is a superior way of modeling that kind of career path than just simply talking about it in class.”

Schroeder, the Charles S. Murphy Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy Studies, created the externship program with Ted Kaufman. The two regularly teach a seminar on Congress at the Law School, and both have deep experience on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch.

Schroeder was the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, and headed that office in 1996 and 1997. He also served as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kaufman worked for 22 years on the staff of Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Del), and was
Biden’s long-time chief of staff. He also served as chief of staff and treasurer for the senator’s presidential campaign. Kaufman is a charter member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, to which he was nominated by President Clinton in 1994. Kaufman missed the Duke in D.C. information session because he was attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver with vice presidential nominee Biden.

“Over the years there had been a number of different conversations among overlapping groups of people about how Duke should have a footprint in Washington,” Schroeder said. “We have a lot of connections in D.C., both through the Law School and the [Terry Sanford Institute for Public Policy], and everybody always said it would be a great idea. But if you had to look for the cause of it happening now, it would be that Dean Levi has made it a priority and said, ‘Let’s go ahead and give this a try.’”

Schroeder said that he and Kaufman are working to create externships on Capitol Hill, on the personal staff of house members and senators, with congressional committees, with NGOs and lobbying groups that have legislative interaction, “and possibly some positions in the executive branch.”

“These people will agree to take you with the understanding that you’ll be doing substantive work related to policy decisions,” Schroeder told students.

Students can earn a maximum of 14 credits through Duke in D.C., Schroeder explained, based on an externship worth up to nine credits, a parallel academic course worth two credits, and a paper worth up to four credits.

Schroeder encouraged students interested in the program, and those who have connections that could lead to externships, to contact him. A full list of externship possibilities will be available on Sept. 10, after which interested students can submit applications consisting of a résumé, transcript, and personal statement.

Troy Stock ’10 plans to apply for the program in its inaugural semester.

“I’ve done similar stuff at the state level, working for a state representative and I want to work in D.C.,” Stock said. “Right now I’m looking at firms, but people go back and forth between firms and government in D.C. all the time, so I think it would be good to try it out and make contacts.”

Claudia Ahwireng ’11, said she looks forward to enrolling in Duke in D.C. next year, when she is eligible. “This would be a good opportunity to work hands-on at the federal level with a committee or with an actual legislator. I’m very interested in possibly doing policy analysis work and learning more about how the law intersects with the legislative process and thinking through how lawyers enact legislation.”

Schroeder reminded students that politics may affect the logistics of some externship possibilities.

“As you can imagine, in an election year, we’ll have to be a little fluid until after the election,” he said. “For instance, some of these externships may not start until after inauguration, although they will all be completed in time for graduation. And if we’ve gotten a commitment from someone who is voted out of office, we’ll have to renegotiate with their successor or with someone else. Those are just the realities of starting this program in an election year.”
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