Externship Profile: U.S. District Court

After a competitive application process, Charleston School of Law student Amy Raffaldt earned the opportunity to extern with the Honorable Patrick Michael Duffy, senior U.S. district judge. The externship provides an in-depth examination of the functioning of the federal trial courts allowing students to witness the judicial decision-making process from the court’s perspective.

Raffaldt’s daily responsibilities involve tasks assisting Judge Duffy’s clerks with their assignments. “This mainly includes drafting orders for criminal and civil motions, along with extensive research on various topics,” said Raffaldt. “I am also given the opportunity to attend hearings and trials.” Utilizing her legal research and writing skills, she explains that “being able to write quickly and effectively is a huge advantage.”

“We have to evaluate many different areas of the law, including civil procedure issues, tort claims, criminal petitions and motions,” said Raffaldt. “Being able to identify and articulate several of these concepts has been very helpful in my externship.”

One such aspect of the law includes learning about The BRIDGE Program, which is a cooperative effort between the U. S. District Court, U.S. Probation Office, Federal Public Defender’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to provide a rehabilitative program for individuals with substance abuse problems involved in the federal criminal justice system.  The purpose of the federal Drug Court program is to promote community safety, reduce recidivism, and assist with offender rehabilitation by implementing a blend of treatment and sanction alternatives.

“Each week or every other week, those in the program must attend a drug court hearing,” explains Raffaldt. “At that hearing the judge gets an update from the participants on their status. They are required to do at least 40 hours of community service. It’s a big commitment, but it makes a huge difference in these individuals’ lives.”

The importance of keeping a neutral perspective while externing is pivotal, explains Raffaldt. “You are actually able to come to a legal conclusion on the issues rather than arguing one side or the other,” she said. “However, you have to remember that the focus is the law and not your personal feelings, which can often be difficult to overcome.”

Raffaldt, also a member of the Charleston Law Review, believes this externship is a great opportunity to gain experience and establish contacts, just be prepared to work hard. “The cases are interesting and the assignments are exciting to work on,” she explains. “I’m grateful I was selected for this externship because it’s difficult to get this kind of exposure anywhere else.”

Charleston School of Law’s externship program allows students to gain practical work experience while earning course credit. Students complement their classroom studies by working under the direct supervision of members of the judiciary or attorneys in the public sector. This summer, Charleston School of Law students are at 28 dynamic externships sites helping the community. Since fall 2006, Charleston School of Law students have completed approximately 72,829 externship hours.

Story and photography by Lucy J. Remitz.

Read more externship profiles:

  • Externship Profile: Crisis Ministries
  • Externship Profile: DHEC-OCRM
  • Externship Profile: MUSC
  • Externship Profile: U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • Externship Profile: City of Charleston Legal Department
  • Externship Profile: Seamen’s Church Institute


Release Date: 8/8/2012