By Nicole Lehtman
Washington, D.C. is the nation’s epicenter of law and policy, and no better place for students interested in the institutions that shape them.
Last semester, Berkeley Law student Alex Thomson ’20 had the opportunity to experience the legislative process—and help shape it—as an extern for the House Judiciary Committee. Little did he know he would witness history first-hand during the House of Representatives’ impeachment proceedings of President Trump.
“It was a one-of-a-kind experience,” Thomson says. “The historical nature of impeachment permeated throughout, and brought a gravity to the work we were doing that was truly unique, humbling, and inspiring.”
As an extern on the committee, Thomson witnessed the full debate and vote within the Judiciary Committee and was in the chamber when the full House voted on the articles of impeachment. “This has only happened three times in our nation’s history, and it was a solemn occasion,” he says.
Thomson was enrolled in the UCDC Law Program, a full-semester externship opportunity that immerses students in the theory and practice of Washington lawyering. Students gain meaningful contact with all three branches of the federal government, independent regulatory agencies, and advocacy nonprofits.
Thomson applied to the program to get hands-on experience doing investigative work, serving his goals of working on government investigations.
“I had also never worked in government before, and because that’s part of my long-term career plan, I wanted to gain exposure and experience now,” he says.
Powerful and pragmatic
Spending a semester in Washington provided a nice reprieve from law school, Thomson explains, and a fantastic opportunity to learn more about how lawyering functions in the nation’s capital. “I’ll be working in D.C. post-graduation (at Covington and Burling), so it was great to be able to get to know and explore my new home” he says.
The experience will be directly beneficial to his practice area post-graduation, he says, giving him “a government ‘credential’ that will allow me to more easily work for the federal government in the future.”
For Thomson, the House Judiciary Committee stood out as one of the most exciting committees engaged in oversight work. It operates at the forefront of several controversial issues facing the country, including gun control, abortion rights, voting rights, and marijuana legalization.
“It was an honor to work on a few, including racial discrimination and expanding voting rights access,” he says.
Now completing his final semester of law school, Thomson strongly recommends the UCDC Law Program to fellow students.
“It’s important to take on opportunities that offer learning outside of the classroom,” he says. “UCDC is a great experience to help learn how to be a lawyer.”