externship Archives - College of Law


2L Michael Orcutt’s externship with TTCU Federal Credit Union

“What you put in is what you get out” is the advice that 2L law student Michael Orcutt received on the first day of his summer externship. That day, Orcutt said, was memorable for a few reasons. “My desk was a standing desk that retracted at the push of a button,” he said. Orcutt admitted that, while this may be an odd thing to recall, for him, the desk symbolized something more: a professional environment that he had arrived at through hard work and determination.

Externship readiness

Man in a blue suit leaning on a table smiling for the camera
Michael Orcutt

One of Orcutt’s first classes at the College of Law was contracts. He quickly fell in love with the subject and decided to pursue opportunities specifically in that field. “I turned to On-Campus Interviews (OCIs), knowing that I wanted to do an externship that would allow me to work for college credit,” said Orcutt. He applied for a handful of diverse positions, but one particular post caught his eye: the contracts and risk compliance externship at TTCU Federal Credit Union.

The staff in the Professional Development Office helped Orcutt to ready his resume, tighten up his cover letter and reach out to references. A week after submitting his application, TTCU contacted him for an interview. At the time, Orcutt had only taken one contracts course. “I still didn’t know as much about contracts as I would have liked, so, as the adage goes – what you lack in experience, make up for with enthusiasm!” This tactic worked out perfectly for Orcutt.

Orcutt was admittedly insecure about his externship readiness at the time, but he underestimated just how much TU prepared him. “Yes, TU whetted my writing and built up my legal technical skills, but it goes beyond that. The professors here invested in me,” he said. “They distilled in me everything I needed: perseverance, hard work, a sense of striving – to always give it your best. TU invested in me, and now TTCU was investing in me, too.”

First-day replay

Man waving and smiling at the camera
Orcutt’s TTCU extern spotlight

Orcutt’s experience on his first day on the job is something that many young professionals can appreciate: a little overdressed, a little overwhelmed and utterly impressed by the professional setting that is now a part of their daily routine. “This was no walk-in-the-park (or stand-at-your-desk, if you will) kind of job. My responsibilities included researching and writing legal memoranda (sometimes multiple memos on the same day), observing and assisting with the day-to-day legal problems of a financial institution, and, finally, reviewing, drafting and redlining contracts,” he said.

Master Service Agreements, Non-Disclosure Agreements, End User License Agreements … Orcutt interacted with all kinds of contracts. By the end, he had read word-for-word and redlined almost two dozen agreements. “When I first started, I wasn’t very familiar with redlining. I asked my supervisor, Jesse Sumner, and he explained in detail that it was a certain way of editing contracts with the purpose of negotiating,” Orcutt said. Sumner also advised Orcutt to read Contract Redlining Etiquette by Nada Alnajafi to take his work to the next level. This recommendation would pay off in the end.

On to the next

Man smiling outside with arms folded across his chest
Michael Orcutt

If one of the most important factors in a good externship is strong leadership, then Orcutt certainly lucked out in that department. “Working with my supervisor was the highlight of my externship,” he said. “Jesse’s investment in me meant the world and helped me grow as both a young professional and a person.” From resume workshopping to networking on LinkedIn, Sumner bolstered Orcutt’s potential in ways that would affect Orcutt’s immediate future. Sumner, however, maintains that it was Orcutt who put in the work. “At TTCU, our primary goal is to provide law students with the resources they need to achieve an in-depth knowledge of their preferred field. We spent the entirety of Michael’s externship lasering in on his interests and skills and crafting a resume that would catch employers’ eyes,” Sumner said; “Michael arrived with knowledge, work ethic, listening skills and a drive to move forward. He was the perfect TTCU externship candidate.”

When an internship post on LinkedIn from Alnajafi appeared on his feed, Sumner knew that Orcutt was the perfect match. “When Jesse showed me the listing, I started drafting a new cover letter, but, before I finished, Nada read my profile that Jesse helped me with, liked it and reached out to me,” Orcutt said. This would eventually result in a fall internship with Alnajafi’s blog, Contract Nerds, for which Orcutt’s responsibilities include researching, drafting and editing “whitepaper”-style articles for contracting concepts and redlining Contract Nerds agreement templates.

“The snowball effect of Jesse’s guidance and investment in me directly resulted in helping me secure an incredible writing internship for one of the foremost contracts-focused blogs in the world,” said Orcutt, who is proof that advanced expertise is not necessary when applying for externships but is something that develops with the right mindset and leadership. Determination and enthusiasm are essential building blocks to successful career paths. Listening skills and a willingness to learn will carry candidates on to the next big opportunity.

At The University of Tulsa, professional growth is a primary objective. Unlock your potential by learning more about the externship opportunities provided by the College of Law.

Gaining an insider’s perspective on the federal court system

University of Tulsa College of Law student Brandon Keaton (3L) spent his final semester as an extern in the office of The Honorable Irma Ramirez, a Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Now just days away from graduating on Dec. 17, Keaton is well-equipped with the skills and knowledge he will need to fulfill his dream of practicing in one of the Lone Star state’s larger legal markets.

law student in a suit smiling for the camera outside
Brandon Keaton

Born and raised in Camden, Arkansas, Keaton graduated from the University of Arkansas — Fort Smith in 2018 with a degree in business administration. While there, Keaton took a handful of law courses and one of his professors was Associate District Judge Dennis Sprouse, a 1977 graduate of TU Law. “In fact, Judge Sprouse was the person who put TU Law on my radar,” Keaton recalled.

An instructive experience

As he reflects on his four months in Dallas, Keaton is particularly thankful to Judge Ramirez for encouraging and empowering him to tailor his externship experience to suit his interests and ambitions. Central to this was Keaton’s daily practice of reaching out to court-security officers in order to find out the schedules for the Northern District’s judges. Whenever a topic or case piqued his interest, Keaton would sit in and watch the proceedings.

Experiencing trials firsthand took Keaton far beyond the theories and examples he had studied in the classroom. “My externship opportunities were great,” he reported. “I got to see the ins and outs of the federal courts in the Northern District. It was certainly eye-opening.”

When he was not attending trials or busy drafting opinions on pending motions for Judge Ramirez, Keaton read and reviewed case files. In fact, he received his first file to review on his very first day of the externship. His most notable assignment was to write a motion to dismiss a case featuring a pro se plaintiff before working on a response to the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial.

Looking at life after graduation and passing the bar, Keaton hopes to pursue a career in civil litigations, where his writing and mock trial expertise will definitely prove valuable. “Early careers in civil litigation usually involve heavy research and writing as well as handling discovery,” Keaton pointed out. “As a law student’s foundation starts to build, their responsibilities follow suit.”

Laying the groundwork

While externships are a powerful means of experiencing what it is like to work as a legal professional and getting set to practice law, Keaton credited his coursework and professors at TU Law with enabling him to lay the necessary groundwork. For example, Keaton underscored the impact of the legal writing courses he took during previous semesters, which he was then able to build on in Judge Ramirez’s office.

law student in front of a book case with arms folded
Brandon Keaton

Keaton also praised the effectiveness of TU Law’s trial skills and evidence workshop along with the American Association for Justice mock trial travel team, both of which helped him to enhance his analytic skills and improve his ability to notice the issues and minute details being argued in the cases and proceedings he sat in on. “Those experiences allowed me to focus on the effectiveness of the lawyers themselves, rather than placing all my focus on the issues being argued,” Keaton said. “That’s a priceless experience.”

A further, less tangible, element of preparation TU Law provided was to help Keaton set his expectations with regard to what it is like to work as an extern. In addition to receiving advice from Assistant Dean for Experiential Learning Lauren Donald, Keaton spoke to other students who had already completed or were in the process of completing their externships and pick their brains for externship wisdom.

Keaton also had professors on his side to help him prepare to apply for an externship. In particular, both Professor of Law Johnny Parker and Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law Robert Spoo provided Keaton with guidance and boosted his confidence. “Brandon is one of the brightest and most prepared legal minds that I have had the pleasure of teaching at TU Law,” commented Spoo. “He performed superbly in my Contracts and Constitutional Law courses, and I expect to see him thrive in the profession of law.” Parker likewise had high praise for Keaton, stating “he’s a highly intelligent, very dedicated individual. These qualities, along with his work ethic, allow him to succeed in all his endeavors. He is a joy to work with.”

Advice from a law school vet

When asked if he had any advice to bestow upon those who may follow in his footsteps, Keaton had this to say: “I will give the same advice I was given when I was a 1L. During my first year of law school, a 3L told me to try to experience as many different areas of law as possible while you’re in law school. They said that the only sure way to find out which area you want to begin your career in is to exhaust all your options first.

“I came into law school unsure if I would even consider litigation mainly because of the idea of having to step foot in a court room and make arguments. But, after taking trial skills and following that up with participating on a mock trial travel team, it was clear that this was for me.”

Does the prospect of having a well-rounded law school experience excite you? Head over to the TU College of Law for more information!

Revell specialized in health law in D.C. externships

With an undergraduate degree in biomedical science from Texas A&M University, Melissa Revell knew she wanted to pursue a career in the healthcare industry. Her studies led her to the field of law and to The University of Tulsa.

As a third year law student, Revell is worked in Washington, D.C. as a legal extern for both the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA).

“I spent the last semester of law school externing in Washington, D.C.”

“Working in Washington, D.C., the last semester of law school has rounded out my perspective on health care, by allowing me to see health care from the vantage point of a federal administrative agency,” said Revell. “I’m excited to take what I’ve learned from these experiences back to Tulsa where I’ll be working after graduation.”

At the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Revell consults with and drafts opinions for administrative law judges on Medicare disputes. At AHLA, she writes articles on recent healthcare decisions, legislation and regulatory changes for the agency’s newsletter sent to its 14,000 members.

“I’ve observed how healthcare attorneys provide objective counsel with compassion.”

In the summer of her second year, Revell interned at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, conducting legal research and advising counsel of issues of informed consent, patient discharge and advance directives. “My experience at St. Jude greatly impacted me, as I learned first-hand how their positions require the attorneys to provide objective counsel, while approaching delicate issues with compassion.”

Revell first became passionate about health care in her undergraduate years when she shadowed several physicians, operated a breast cancer research lab and volunteered in a prenatal clinic.

“Melissa came to me early with the goal of securing an opportunity in Washington, D.C. in health law. She used her network from her internship at St. Jude to focus in on where she wanted to be. We worked together on a plan within the externship program that allowed her to get course credit for two placements concurrently. Through her own tenacity, she is getting double experience and exposure in her preferred practice area,” said Lauren Donald, assistant dean for experiential learning at TU Law.

Revell is joining McAfee & Taft in Tulsa as a healthcare attorney.

During her time at TU Law, Revell was selected as a William W. Means Professionalism Endowed Scholar and a Steele Scholar. She served as an articles research editor of the Tulsa Law Review in 2017-18 and as an associate editor in 2016-17. She also earned four CALI Excellence for the Future awards in Legal Writing II, Legal Writing III, Constitutional Law II and Insurance Law.

“One of my favorite things about TU Law is the high caliber of the professors and how vested they are in their students. I love living in Tulsa, and I believe that Tulsa is a perfect size legal market for a new attorney to begin his or her career,” said Revell. After graduation, Revell is joining the healthcare practice group at McAfee & Taft in Tulsa.

For more information on externships at The University of Tulsa College of Law, visit us online.


Record number of TU Law students in externships across the U.S.

In 2018, The University of Tulsa College of Law has the largest number of externship placements in the school’s history. The school’s externship program allows students to be matched with attorneys and judges to obtain real-world, practical experience for academic credit.

“This is a record-setting semester for our externship program,” says Lauren Donald, assistant dean for experiential learning and TU Law 2007 alumna. “More than 30 percent of our law students are completing externships this year. Currently, we have students externing in Oklahoma and in cities across the U.S. including Denver, Dallas, Ft. Worth, New York City and Washington D.C.”

Learn about TU Law and apply here.

Legal externships provide the opportunity for students to move from thinking like lawyers in the classroom setting to operating like lawyers in practice settings. They also provide significant experience and knowledge in specialized areas of law including immigration, energy, environmental, corporate and judicial law.

Preston Brasch, externed at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic.

Third-year law student, Preston Brasch, recently returned from an externship at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “While at Harvard, I met extensively with clients who had fled persecution. I spent much of my externship preparing their asylum claims, assisting with research, drafting court filings and securing expert testimony,” said Brasch.

“Learning about my clients’ lives was a humbling experience – I felt a sense of responsibility to serve them well, knowing how much trust they gave the clinic. In many cases, their lives depended on us effectively advocating on their behalf because if forced to return to their home countries, there was a great chance they would face serious harm,” said Brasch.

HRIC Managing Attorney Phil Torrey spoke very highly of his TU Law intern. “Brasch was more like a colleague than a student.”  Sabi Ardalan, assistant director of the HRIC added, “We were very grateful to have Preston Brasch as a part of our legal clinic in the summer of 2017. He did incredible work researching and writing, meeting with clients and preparing case filings. TU Law clearly prepared him very well for this summer externship.”

See Preston talk about his externship here.

To learn more about externships at TU law, visit us online. TU Law is rated a U.S. News and World Report Top 100 Law School and a preLaw Magazine Best Value Law School. For information on admissions, visit us online today.

Legal community helps build future lawyers through externships

This article, written by Lauren Donald, assistant dean for experiential learning at TU, was first published in the Tulsa Business & Legal News.

The externship program at The University of Tulsa College of Law is one of the most robust programs of its kind, offering students an effective and comprehensive bridge to go from law student to lawyer.

TU Law’s proximity to the thriving, urban setting of the city and its engaged legal community ensure that externs have opportunities in a variety of exciting and relevant placements. In addition to local resources, students also take advantage of externships across the U.S. and abroad in government agencies, public interest organizations, courts, law firms and corporations.

Through externships, students build confidence in their ability to practice, feel the pleasure and challenge of work that matters, and find a path from lawyering experiences to a rewarding career.

Said Keaton Taylor, a second-year law student and extern with the Tulsa County Public Defender: “During (the law student-to-lawyer) transition, new skills become necessary for success; skills that can only be learned by doing. Externships are crucial to future lawyers. The externship program gives me the opportunity while still in school to begin navigating the new terrain of an attorney.”

Supervisors also find reward in helping lay a foundation for a student’s career. April Merrill, Legal Aid attorney for Medical-Legal Partnerships, says that through her practice students are exposed to real-world issues and sometimes of the darker side of life.

“This is often the first real-life experience the student has interacting with actual clients who are entrusting their problems to us,” she said.

Through these experiences, she hopes to instill in students a desire to serve low-income persons as these future lawyers move on in their careers.

Merrill has invested time as a supervisor in building the student experience.

“I strive to take the students from the legal theoretical framework to the practical, everyday practice of law,” she said. “As the students are allowed more client interaction and responsibility for drafting and research, I can see their confidence grow.

“Those ah-ha moments, as Oprah calls them, are the most rewarding. As a supervisor teaching a concept and to see it suddenly click, it’s really meaningful.”

Under the direction of engaged supervisors such as Merrill, students begin to identify their path and develop marketable skills.

“Law school is like an oyster producing pearls,” Taylor said. “For a pearl to hold value, it must be polished. Experiential learning increases my value as a pearl. I aspire to be the shiniest pearl on the market so I need to polish my skills as soon as possible. The externship program at TU allows me to do that.”