Just a few blocks from the University of St. Thomas School of Law at the Hennepin County Government Center, 2L Joe Tourand experienced firsthand the day-to-day activities of a county court system. This summer, Tourand was as an extern for the Honorable Mary R. Vasaly of the Fourth Judicial District.

“I worked alongside Judge Vasaly’s two law clerks on civil disputes,” Tourand said. “I have done legal research of both state and federal law, drafted orders for the judge, written memoranda, observed both civil and criminal jury trials, and I sat in on the judge’s settlement negotiations and teleconferences.”

Tourand was placed in a position with the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis as part of St. Thomas Law’s Externship Program, which helps law students explore different career areas and provides relevant professional experience.

He said one of the best parts of his externship was the people he met.

“From the judges to the administrative personnel, everyone was more than eager to help out and, more importantly, give detailed explanations and guidance when needed,” Tourand said.

When his question or project required additional research, Tourand used his St. Thomas resources and engaged the law librarians for assistance.

“The amazing staff at the St. Thomas Law Library took the time to help me and showed me new tricks to get to information even faster,” he said.

Improved writing and research skills are useful tools that Tourand will take with him at the end of his externship, but he said he has learned far more valuable lessons this summer.

“One the most difficult days of my externship was hearing a family give their victim impact statements at a sentencing hearing for a murder trial,” he said. “The family’s words were compelling and powerful. It reminded me that the law is not just research and writing; it is real people dealing with difficult situations.”

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