Erica Skogen Summer Externship

Erica Skogen and Judge Charles Miller

It’s not everyday that you get an opportunity to work with a federal district court judge in North Dakota. Erica Skogen, a Bismarck, North Dakota native, received that prestigious opportunity after completing her first year of law school. Erica is currently completing her externship at the U.S. District court in Bismarck under Judge Dan Hovland and Magistrate Charles Miller.

Skogen didn't know what to expect going into this position, she had just finished her first year of law school, and had never worked in a legal setting before. “My main goal going into the position was to learn as much as I could about the court system and to understand what the judges are looking for when a lawyer presents a case before the court - both in writing and orally.”

A day at the courthouse varies depending on Judge Miller and Judge Hovland's schedules. Regarding Magistrate Court proceedings, she has observed initial appearances, preliminary hearings, detention hearings, settlement conferences, status conferences, and discovery disputes. In District Court proceedings she has observed change of plea hearings, sentencing, revocations of supervised release, evidentiary hearings, substitution of council hearings, and jury trials.

“After each courtroom observation, the judge will discuss with me why they ruled a certain way, what factors led them to their decision, and answer questions I have on the case,” Said Skogen.

“When I am not observing court proceedings, I have the opportunity to do "real" law clerk work. I am assigned motions for the court to consider. For each motion, I read the documents, research the law, apply the law to my case, and draft an order for the court to adopt. Before I present my order for the judge to sign, a law clerk will review my work and suggest edits. I also have reviewed court orders drafted by the Judge to check for errors and make suggested edits.”

During a student panel of current students who had already gone through the externship process, hosted by the law school, Skogen learned about the externship program and position at the U.S. District court. “First, and foremost, Judge Hovland is currently the only federal district court judge in North Dakota. I knew that it is an extremely rare opportunity to work with a federal court judge at any point in a one's legal career, let alone while attending law school. I just couldn't pass on the opportunity.”

Skogen attended Century High School in Bismarck, ND. After high school she attended North Dakota State University for her undergraduate degree with a double major in Political Science and Philosophy. When asked why she chose to pursue law school she said, “I wanted to be a part of a group that made positive, impactful changes in our society. I chose UND Law because I was born and raised in North Dakota, and I want to practice law in my home state. I knew UND would provide great networking with current North Dakota lawyers as well as future colleagues who are current classmates.”  

Overall, Skogen has gained more confidence in herself as a law student by actively applying the skills she learned in class. The exposure to a wide range of legal professions has also helped define and guide her specific career goals. Finally, it jump-started her legal connections and professional network.

When asked if she would recommend this externship to future law school students Erica had this to say, “I would absolutely recommend this externship to other law school students. Although I understand the difficulties of working "without pay" for a summer, you will earn back your time with the experience that only comes from working in a federal court. On top of that, it will look great on a resume.” 

By: Will Gordon