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Judicial Extern Program Helping 3L Zak Fithian Prepare For His Future

It is safe to say that third-year student Zak Fithian has acquired a great deal of knowledge about the law, since his first classes at the College of Law in August 2008. But it has been experiences outside of the classroom, including his current judicial externship, which have helped Fithian truly ‘put theory into practice.’

“It’s great if you can understand the theory of it, but you can’t really wrap your head around something until you see it in action,” he said.

Fithian, a 2008 Ohio State University graduate, is doing just that this semester, serving as a judicial extern for Judge Michael Barrett at the U.S. District Court – Southern District of Ohio.

Professors Marianna Bettman and Michele Bradley run the judicial externship program, aimed primarily at providing “skills training.” Prospective externs fill out an application and may be placed with a judge at one of several local courts in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Like the other judicial externs, Fithian is required to work a minimum of 100 hours during the course of the semester, in addition to a one-hour classroom component. But this is by no means a burden, but, instead, a rewarding opportunity for Fithian, who is also enrolled in Family Law and Administrative Law courses.

“It gives you an inside look at what you are really doing out there,” he said.

Judicial externs partake in work similar to that of law clerks, such as reviewing case files and preparing memoranda. Fithian, meanwhile, also mentioned tasks such as drafting orders and partaking in Judge Barrett’s “mandatory” settlement conferences, the latter which he referred to as “exciting to get into.”

The Mansfield, Ohio, native’s interest in the judicial process began during the summer following his 1L year, in which he worked for Judge John West at the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. It, thus, became almost a no-brainer to pursue at judicial externship at school.

“I don’t think there is a better way to learn,” he said. “You’re actually seeing courts, seeing hearings; people are arguing motions every day in front of you.”

His experiences with Judge West, now combined with his work for Judge Barrett, have ultimately shaped his future goals.

After graduation, the current University of Cincinnati Law Review articles editor and Glenn M. Weaver Institute of Law and Psychiatry fellow, plans to work a clerkship with a judge. Ultimately, Fithian hopes to become an assistant U.S. Attorney, inspired by the summer position he held at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2010

By Jordan Cohen, ’13