Law student maximizes federal internship opportunities

Sarah Smerling

Sarah Smerling has felt called to public service for a long time.

The third-year student at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School has interned at the U.S. Department of Justice and the House Judiciary Committee during her time at Mason.

Being selected as one of 16 students nationwide for a legal fellowship at the Fund for American Studies in Washington, D.C., this past summer was another example of how Mason’s location has directly benefitted Smerling’s career path.

“I enjoy being part of something larger than myself,” said Smerling, who hopes to work for the federal government. “It’s been really exciting the opportunities I’ve had since I’ve gotten here, and it’s only made me more encouraged to follow that dream.”

As part of her fellowship, which examined issues of constitutional interpretation, limited government and free enterprise, Smerling worked full days at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the regulatory affairs division conducting research. She also attended networking events with legal experts and judges—including Senior Circuit Judge and Mason professor Douglas Ginsburg, career development sessions and evening classes. When she finally returned home, she was busy studying for the next day’s classes, she said.

Being near the hub of U.S. politics was one of the main reasons Smerling chose the school, she said.

“Being [at Mason] has been great,” said Smerling, who grew up in California. “The quality of the professors is probably the number one thing.”

This is immediately evident in the classroom, said Smerling, who is also president of the Federalist Society on campus and is participating in Mason’s Free Speech Clinic.

“If you argue one way, [the professors] are going to argue with you the other way, no matter what they think or believe, and I think that’s a real asset here,” Smerling said.

Professors such as Michael Krauss have given Smerling valuable life and career advice, and are both tough yet supportive of their students, she said.

“[Krauss] was tough on me because he wanted me to do my best,” Smerling said of her tort law professor. “He’s has had such a big impact on my career here.”

“Miss Smerling is indefatigable; she’s enthusiastic, intelligent, and committed,” Krauss said. “I think and hope that one day she will be a member of Congress.”

With all the activities Smerling has going on, the Mason community has made a difference in finding support and balance, she said.

“Law school can be a competitive place by its nature—we’re graded against each other,” Smerling said. “But more so [at Mason] than any other law school I’ve heard of, we have a strong community bond and we want [our peers] to succeed—it’s really unique.”