Cashmere Cozart was a 2L student at UIC Law when she externed with Hon. Sharon Johnson Coleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Distict of Illinois. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois is a federal trial-level court with jurisdiction over the northern counties of Illinois. The Court is divided into two geographical division, the eastern and western divisions, and the district includes all of the Chicago metropolitan area.
Externship Program: A lot of students are really interested in judicial externships, especially at the federal level. What specific types of projects did you complete in your externship?
Cashmere Cozart: As an extern for Judge Coleman, I drafted orders for motions to dismiss and a motion to stay for labor and employment and class-action matters.
EP: If you had to name one skills area you’ve developed at the Law School that was most useful during your externship with Judge Coleman, what would it be?
Cozart: Definitely my writing and editing skills. I honed my writing throughout my Lawyering Skills courses, and even further as a member of the UIC John Marshall Law Review, but I really saw continuous improvement throughout my externship. I also developed strong editing skills. Working in a real-world context, I really pushed myself to make sure my work product for every assignment was my best work.
EP: What about your externship supervisor? Did she focus or help you explore anything specific?
Cozart: My supervisor helped me refine my research skills with specific advice on areas how I could improve my writing. She was invested in answer questions not only about my assignments, but about the court and the legal proceedings I observed. She even suggested events to attend for the benefit of my professional development.
EP: Externships are one of the ways that students can explore a career path. Did your externship influence your career plans—in what area you want to practice or what setting? Did it change your sense of the justice system?
Cozart: My externship definitely confirmed my desire to obtain a judicial clerkship. My Criminal Law class had piqued my curiosity about how criminal cases proceed through the courts, and this externship allowed me to explore that curiosity more fully. Experiencing the justice system up close really gives you a better sense of how things work.
EP: Were there any experiences that came as a surprise?
Cozart: If you haven’t worked in the courts, the whole experience is new, but I was pleasantly surprised that the court hosted weekly discussions for externs and law clerks. It was really interesting to learn from different judges and lawyers as they discussed their careers with us.
EP: What do you think was the most meaningful part of your experience?
Cozart: Aside from really developing my professional skills, the most meaningful part of the externship was the relationships I developed with my externship supervisor and the other clerks.
EP: Any advice that you’d give to students pursuing an externship with the Northern District?
Cozart: Be curious. I learned so much from my externship, because I was constantly asking questions about the assignments I was doing and how the courts work.