Trial Experience at the Department of Labor Madison Howell ’24L spent the semester as an extern in the litigation office of the Plan Benefits Security Division.
Madison Howell ’24L is from Knoxville, Tennessee. She attended Sewanee: The University of the South, where she received a B.S. in Political Science, with minors in Chemistry, Biology, and Classical Languages. She is on the Editorial Board of the German Law Journal and is the President of the Health Law Association. Madison lives in downtown Lexington and part-time in DC, where she spent the fall semester as an extern at the U.S. Department of Labor in the litigation office of the Plan Benefits Security Division.
Describe your work experience and daily schedule.
My experience at the DOL was completely in-person. I travelled from outside DC into the city via metro each day. The national office of the DOL is located on the National Mall near the Capitol. On a day-to-day basis I worked with a pair of senior trial attorneys answering research questions. I also worked on multiple large projects at various stages of litigation, from investigation to settlement or trial.
What are some skills you developed this fall?
I have developed my writing skills as I wrote documents for internal reference for upcoming litigation, along with memos to senior trial attorneys. I attended many DOL training seminars such as an oral argument seminar and an interviewing seminar. I developed my research skills as some cases involved specific scientific and medical knowledge on top of legal analysis. I continued to develop my trial preparation skills such as writing deposition questions or comparing motions in limine.
What surprised you about the work you did during your externship?
The variety in type of work surprised me. ERISA is such as complex statute that there are many options for types of cases that the DOL is involved in. In a day I can work on financial duty of care cases, denial of benefits cases, and mental health limitation cases.
What was your favorite aspect of your fall experience?
My favorite aspect was the variety in cases–learning about many different areas and what type of skills are helpful for which type of case. It was never a boring day.
Has this experience helped you figure out your post graduate plans, and if so how?
I realized through this experience that I would enjoy working at a government agency in D.C., especially in a litigation division.