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Liberty Law students supplement schooling with top-tier internships

Liberty Law students Payton Gonzalez (far right) and Chavioleyette Fenelus (second from right) interned with Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo Powell (second from left) this summer. (Photo provided)

As Liberty University School of Law students took a summer hiatus from formal education, many spent the break working in various prestigious internships and externships across the country.

Liberty Law students interned in many locations across the United States, including the Virginia Supreme Court, Virginia Court of Appeals, law firms, and the United States District Courts, among others.

Rising 3Ls Chavioleyette Fenelus and Payton Gonzalez have worked alongside Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo Powell this summer. Their roles included a strong emphasis on research and writing.

Fenelus credited her classwork and participation on the moot court competition team (a requirement for 1L students) with preparing her for the internship.

“Liberty Law is unique in that it offers and requires a lot of practical experience throughout the curriculum that other schools aren’t required to do,” she said. “That is what truly helped me.”

Fenelus grew up in Richmond, Va., and said she appreciated the opportunity to not only work in the highest court in Virginia but to do so in her hometown. She said she has been challenged to put her legal skills to the test through her internship.

“I really loved being able to do the research not only from an objective standpoint, but also to provide our opinion on what the law says based on the research. Justice Powell was willing to hear our perspective and how we came to the conclusions we came to,” she said. “I really loved that part, because it’s a dialogue and she’s able to ask questions about different steps of how we got to our conclusions. It really challenges you because you have to have solid logic in all the rules.”

Gonzalez said she likewise felt properly equipped to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia because of Liberty’s Lawyering Skills program and her extracurricular work on the moot court team. She said that her faith played a large role in her internship, despite working in a highly secular arena.

“Whoever it was that I encountered, I really wanted to be a light to those people and to love like the Lord loves and to edify Christ in my conversations,” she said.

Rising 3L Hannah Shotton is completing her internship with Judge Norman Moon in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Lynchburg. The job has allowed her to supplement her in-class learning with firsthand, personal experience.

“The biggest thing I’ve seen this summer is a lot of what I’m learning in school come to life, which is really cool,” she said. “You can only learn so much from a textbook or in class, but when you get to see it in real time, it really helps put the pieces together.”

Her internship included writing court opinions, completing various research projects, and attending hearings when court was in session.

Liberty Law aims to continue to provide opportunities for students to gain real-world experiences with high-level internships and externships.

“The law school is incredibly proud of its students working as interns to provide valuable assistance to their employers, impact their communities and serve others, and apply their skills and knowledge to further their education and the legal profession,” said Kristine Smith, Esquire, director of Employer and Student Services at Liberty Law. “We are extremely grateful to the employers across the United States who host our law students and provide valuable guidance and experience to the students. We would not have such robust internship and externship programs without these employers, and we welcome new employers who are interested in hosting interns to contact the law school.”

The Fall 2023 semester at Liberty Law officially begins Aug. 22.

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