Allie Cole 2L has had a busy summer as an extern observing court proceedings and conducting legal research for the Honorable Susan Richard Nelson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

“I have had the opportunity to watch sentencing, summary judgement motions, motions for default judgement, and much more,” Cole said. “I have also spent time researching the rights that are afforded to pro se defendants. I have learned a great deal about their constitutional rights and the reasons why a person would choose to represent themselves in court.”

Cole was placed in a position with the United States Federal District Court in St. Paul as part of St. Thomas Law’s Externship Program, which offers law students the opportunity to explore different career areas and provides them with relevant professional experience.

She says the best part of her externship has been observing Re-entry Court at the Federal Courthouse, a program that’s helping to reduce recidivism among ex-inmates in Minnesota. Instead of interacting in a formal legal setting, former offenders meet with judges and other federal criminal justice officials, often in simple office meeting rooms, for constructive conversations about employment, housing, substance abuse, transportation and beyond.

“It was refreshing and humbling to see everyone that is involved in our criminal justice system coming together to help defendants who have served their sentences return to the community and improve their lives,” Cole said. “It shows that court can be a positive experience and can be used in a constructive manner to hold people accountable and improve their lives.”

The quick pace of court activities has pushed Cole to sharpen her writing skills and helped her become faster at research. She said it has also brought to life and reinforced what she learned in her St. Thomas Law classes during the school year.

“When you know what is going on in a courtroom and why it is happening, and you see the theory we discuss in class in real time in a courtroom, you can understand and value what you learned in the classroom much more,” Cole said.

Before her externship is over at the end of July, Cole said she is looking forward to watching additional proceedings at the courthouse and the possibility of sitting in on a settlement conference.

“But I’m mostly looking forward to more of what I’ve been doing—improving my researching and writing skills,” she said.

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