During the winter 2024 semester, several students took advantage of the opportunity to expand their learning beyond the walls of the Law Quad and practice in one of the international externship programs the Law School offers. Whether it was working on human rights issues in Geneva or helping migrants in South Africa, each experience expanded students’ legal knowledge while providing the confidence that comes with experiential learning. 

“Students benefit from these externships in many ways,” said Professor Amy Sankaran, ’01, externship program director. “We have amazing classes at Michigan Law, but it is called ‘the practice of law’ for a reason—because one cannot become expert at it without practice. Externships and any other sort of experiential learning, such as clinics and simulations, give students a jump start on that practice.” 

In addition to domestic externships, students have traveled overseas via programs in Geneva, India, and South Africa. Another option is for students to create their own externships in a country of their choice.

Anna Nicol, an adjunct clinical assistant professor of law and the coordinator for the Geneva Externship Program, said she has gained much from overseeing the Michigan Law students. 

“It is such a privilege to learn from the students about their experiences as they immerse themselves in work at international organizations, civil society organizations, and permanent missions in the epicenter of international law,” she said. “And watching them make connections in our weekly roundtables between their own work and that of their fellow externs, deepening their understanding of what it means to be a lawyer in Geneva, is incredibly gratifying.”

Read further to learn more about some students’ externship experiences, in their own words.


Portrait of Kendrick Baker

Kendrick Baker, 2L
US Department of State, United States Mission to the United Nations

Being assigned to lead negotiations on a Human Rights Council resolution was a definite highlight of my experience. Representing the United States on my own in the room and working both bilaterally and multilaterally with other delegations from around the world to achieve adoption of the resolution was incredibly rewarding. I got to experience the entire process, from proposing line edits to early drafts of the resolution to being present during the final vote tally.

Working hands-on at the US Mission to the United Nations reaffirmed my interest in focusing on the intersection between domestic law and policy, and international topics. I built a globe-spanning network while in Geneva, and the program enabled me to get a preview of several different career paths over the course of a single semester. 


Portait or Isabel Hershey

Isabel Hershey, 2L 
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

The most exciting moment at my externship was meeting human rights defenders at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). ISHR had helped train a few of them on the HRC mechanisms, and so it was quite fruitful to see them share about their experiences on panels and interact with country ambassadors.

I fell in love with international human rights nonprofit work during my externship and know that this is the field that I am supposed to work within in the future.


Portrait of Nicholas Sweeney

Nicholas Sweeney, ’24 
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Office of Legal Counsel

Given my interest in government litigation and my international work experience before law school, my externship provided insight into how I might combine these two points of concentration by engaging in public service work at the international level. The Office of Legal Counsel was an especially good fit since it is one of the comparatively few settings in Geneva that lends itself to litigating before an international tribunal. 

I loved being in Geneva, immersed in a culturally rich environment that challenged me to reflect on profound legal and policy questions in multiple languages and from a variety of perspectives. This exposure to new ideas and perspectives was enhanced by the opportunity I had to learn from the work experiences of my classmates, who were assigned to a compelling range of UN-adjacent institutions, NGOs, and missions, covering issues such as human rights, health care, and environmental sustainability. 


Portrait of Cyerra Haywood

Cyerra Haywood, ’24
Legal Resources Centre

The biggest moment of my externship was completing a research memo on the current water infrastructure in South Africa. It was a combination of legal analysis and policy work because South Africa is currently facing a water crisis. As someone who eventually wants to work in state government and experienced the Flint water crisis firsthand, I found the project to be extremely interesting and a really good learning experience. More than anything, this externship showed me how the law can positively impact not only individuals, but communities at large.

I really enjoyed the people, not just my colleagues at the Legal Resources Centre but also my fellow Michigan classmates. I formed real bonds and friendships with them, and going through this experience brought all of us really close together. It’s such a unique thing—to spend your last semester of law school in a completely different country—so celebrating all of the “lasts” with them was amazing. 


Portrait of Julia Kahn

Julia Kahn, ’24
Legal Resources Centre (LRC)

I had the opportunity to work with top international lawyers on issues surrounding privacy and technology and Big Tech accountability. I have been involved with this work since my 1L year and felt so lucky to be involved in this work at LRC. One highlight was working with members of the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations on privacy and technology matters, especially as the people I worked with are some of the foremost experts in this area.

Being able to explore international law—both learning about how the law operates in South Africa and getting a firsthand look at how lawyers work together internationally to achieve a cohesive goal—opened my eyes to just how impactful and interesting this work is to me. Externing at the LRC affirmed my desire to pursue human rights and civil rights law and made me want to become more involved in international law. 


Portrait of Maria LoCicero

Maria LoCicero, 2L
Legal Resources Centre

One of the most exciting moments in the externship was when I got to visit schools in various townships around Cape Town to talk to principals about the challenges they faced, especially regarding government funding. This was an eye-opening experience for me and also allowed me to conduct research and have direct client interaction. I also drafted a protection letter for a man with expired residency papers so that he could travel without fear of arrest. That was a big experience because I got to see how my work made a difference in someone’s life.

The thing I loved most about being in South Africa was learning about a different legal and political system. Because we come from different places, my co-workers and I could approach the same problem in very different ways. It was interesting to learn about and operate under a legal system that is far more modern than that of the US.


Portrait of Alyssa Schams

Alyssa Schams, 2L
Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town

I was a foot soldier on the front lines of public interest lawyering at Scalabrini’s walk-in legal clinic for migrants in South Africa. We saw few big wins; most were small bureaucratic victories. The clients who had good outcomes did not come back to the office, but the ones with poor outcomes did. During the period I worked at Scalabrini, South Africa’s political and legal climate for migrants became much worse. For example, newcomers attempting to apply for asylum began to be arbitrarily arrested. Wait times to get an asylum-seeker visa (not even refugee status) grew to nearly two years.

However, I got a lot of solace out of the fact that I was fighting the good fight, so to speak. Any small victory or fighting chance I could give someone meant something. Even just giving someone access to the legal information necessary to make an informed choice when they’ve been dealt a losing hand meant something.


Portrait of Cole Newcomb

Cole Newcomb, 2L
AGHS Legal Aid Cell

The entire semester was replete with instructive and challenging moments. I certainly value my experience attending the Lahore High Court and working on timely public interest litigation. But the chance to learn from and participate in the daily work of AGHS’s extremely dedicated advocates was spectacular. Their commitment is inimitable and motivating, especially considering the barriers to justice people face. Many moments from this externship will stay with me long after I’ve come home.

Experience in a foreign legal setting offers a fairly incomparable perspective on the realities of international social justice work. I don’t know how else I would have learned what I’ve learned. The externship was a salient component of my preparation for my goals in human rights and fighting global poverty. The perspective and methods I was exposed to are key in shaping my understanding of this future work. I have no doubt that I will be mobilizing them to try to be a more conscientious and effective advocate in the future.