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From Taking Classes To Handling Cases

From the moment they walked in, it was evident to University of Dayton School of Law 3Ls Haley Napier and Bridget Granger that this was no longer the hypothetical scenarios of the classroom.

“We went in day one and they said we’re starting you right out on this, so here you go,” says Napier.

Adds Granger, “We show up and there are a stack of case files on our desk.”

So Napier and Granger got to work.

They spent their summer writing briefs and doing research for the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office as part of their externship. The externship course gives Dayton Law students an opportunity to work in places like law offices and courthouses so they can get real world training.

The experience is one Napier had been looking forward to for as long as she can remember.

“I was your typical kid who wanted to be a lawyer since they were five,” Napier says.

Napier had even worked in a criminal defense firm before she started law school.

“I saw the defense side of it and I wanted to see the prosecution side of it,” Napier says of the opportunity to extern in the prosecutor’s office.

Granger, on the other hand, had wanted to be a doctor when she first went to college.

But it was a letter in the mail that changed everything for her.

“I was so upset when I got the summons and I wanted to get out of it so badly,” Granger says of the time she was called to be a juror in a federal case.

Out of about 60 people, she was one of the few picked to be on the jury.

“My immediate thought was great I’m going to be sitting in this courtroom all summer long,” Granger says. “It ended up being a really interesting case. The whole dynamic of the courtroom I kind of fell in love with.”

Granger says the externship only deepened her interest in criminal law. It also served as proof that she has what it takes to be a lawyer.

“As the summer progressed, I started to be more comfortable with the environment and the work itself,” Granger says. “I feel so much more confident now in my legal writing abilities.”

Napier says she also got a lot out of the externship, since it gave her a chance to put into practice what she’d been learning in the classroom.

“I loved it,” Napier says. “It did make you have to apply your substantive knowledge with a practical experience and that’s what I think I benefited most from.”

Professor of Externships Denise Platfoot Lacey says many times students will have “A-ha” moments when they witness the concepts they’ve been taught play out in real life.

“I really do think students are able to see in their field offices what they have been learning in the classroom and it comes together for them,” Platfoot Lacey says.

Platfoot Lacey says the externship course also provides students with the kinds of experiences you can’t easily simulate in a classroom.

“It gets students exposed to the values of the profession,” Platfoot Lacey says. “Students are seeing how people interact and they’re learning about appropriate conduct and civility. It’s one thing to talk about it in class, it’s another to see how values play a real role in our profession.”

With their externship behind them, both Napier and Granger say they’re now more ready than ever for the next time they’ll show up on the first day of work to a pile of case files. Only that time, they’ll officially be lawyers.

“I think it reflected what the real world will be like next year,” Napier says.

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