Stetson Law students make their mark on Florida Supreme Court

Stetson Law 3L Adam Poe, far left, is participating in the Florida Supreme Court Internship Program for Distinguished Florida Law Students this fall. (Photo courtesy of the Florida Supreme Court)

Stetson Law students have made back-to-back appearances in the prestigious Florida Supreme Court Internship Program for Distinguished Florida Law Students.

Stetson Law 3L Adam Poe is spending this fall 2021 semester in Tallahassee serving as a law clerk to Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, while his classmate, Sabina Fernandez, served as a law clerk to Justice Jorge Labarga last spring.

Sabina Fernandez
Sabina Fernandez

Poe and Fernandez were among a select group of students chosen for the program, which is open to qualified second or third-year law students from accredited Florida law schools. The unpaid internships are available for the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Opportunities include serving as a law clerk to an individual justice, a central staff law clerk working for all the justices, or a law clerk working for the clerk of court and the administrative justice.

“I felt honored to be selected for this incredible opportunity and was hoping to learn as much as I could about the Court and Florida law,” Fernandez said, adding she applied because she wanted the opportunity to further develop her legal research and writing skills.

Poe sought advice from Fernandez when he considered applying for the position, and she helped him understand what the role entailed.

“This is a prestigious and invaluable opportunity to work within the highest court in Florida,” Poe said. “Many people learn and know how the Florida Supreme Court operates, but not many people get to learn this information from the inside. This gives me a unique perspective to gain practical skills I can take with me throughout my career.”

Intern duties include reviewing and making recommendations on petitions for discretionary review, attorney discipline matters, and extraordinary writ petitions, as well as conducting legal research and preparing memoranda on pending cases. They also get the opportunity to attend oral arguments, assist in the drafting of orders or opinions, and attend special lectures, group discussions and training sessions. 

“The most interesting part of the externship so far has been learning about the operations of the Florida Supreme Court,” Poe said. “I love learning about how all the Justices work together; how all the offices work in conjunction to maintain an efficient operation; learning about the very specific and narrow jurisdiction this Court has; and about the life cycle of a case from step one to the final opinion. The most challenging aspect has been the memorandums I was tasked to write. Knowing Chief Justice Canady will eventually be reading my work, there is a lot of pressure to compose the best writing I can offer.”

Fernandez agreed she found learning about the Court’s jurisdiction the most fascinating part of the experience.  She completed her internship remotely and said the most challenging part was balancing that with her coursework. Still, it was worth it: Her hard work earned her a full-time job offer (which she accepted) as a Staff Attorney for Justice Labarga upon her graduation this spring.

Poe chose to move to Tallahassee for the semester and is taking one remote class. He will join Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell in the Tampa office after graduation.

How to Apply

Adam Poe at Justice Canaday's seat on the bench.
Student Adam Poe at Justice Canaday’s seat

Selection for the Court Internship Program for Distinguished Florida Law Students is based on the student’s overall record, including courses taken, grades, research and writing skills, experience, expected graduation date, and satisfactory background checks. Requirements include:

  • Second or third year student;
  • Outstanding academic record (generally top 25 percent) and exceptional research and writing skills;
  • Completion of Civil Procedure and Evidence required; Criminal Practice and Procedure, and Florida Constitutional Law recommended;
  • Certified by law school as being of good character and competent legal ability to perform as an intern for the Florida Supreme Court;
  • Letter of clearance as to character and fitness from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners; and
  • Satisfactory background check by the Florida Supreme Court Marshal’s Office. 

Poe, who is an Assistant Research Editor for Stetson Law Review and a member of Moot Court Board, recommends students who are thinking of applying do their research, speak with Professor Lance Long (who oversees this particular internship), and contact previous Florida Supreme Court Externs for their insight.

“The reason I would advise this is because it is a big commitment to pack up and move 250 miles away from Stetson campus for a full semester,” he said. “It is no doubt worth it, but I would just make sure you know what you are getting into before you apply.”

Fernandez, who is Local Government Editor of Stetson Law Review and a Teaching Assistant for Research and Writing I & II, added that interested students should focus on building key skills.  

“I would encourage fellow students who are interested in this internship to pursue opportunities at Stetson to develop their legal research and writing skills,” she said. “These opportunities will help prepare them for the significant amount of writing they will do in the internship.”