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2L Rodney Dorilás Reflects on White House Externship

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, SYRACUSE, NY —

The College of Law’s Externship Program—one of many available experiential learning opportunities—continues to provide students with top tier placements and invaluable experience. One student, 2L Rodney (Rod) Dorilás, completed two externships over the past year, capitalizing on the Programs’ many options and flexibility. Last summer, Dorilás participated in DCEx with the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Office of the Assistant Attorney General. This spring semester, he had the privilege to participate in DCEx at the White House, Office of White House Counsel.

Dorilás will graduate early in December 2019 with a year of legal experience under his belt and a developing professional network in the nation’s capital. Looking to the future, Dorilás reflects on his experiences in DC. 

“Through DCEx and the White House Internship Program, I had the privilege to serve as a White House Legal Intern with the Office of White House Counsel. I was one of two law students serving within the Office. During my time as a Legal Intern, I was responsible for researching and writing memoranda on regulatory reform, executive authority, government ethics, and various legal issues arising from ongoing legal disputes with the Executive Branch. I also had the pleasure of assisting the White House Counsel’s Office execute its duties in responding to governmental oversight requests and federal judiciary nominations. 

This experience had a tremendous impact on my legal education, as it has brought the classroom teachings to life. For some law students, the legal concepts and theories learned in the classroom, particularly in constitutional law, may be intriguing and intellectually stimulating, but may also seem far-fetched, latent, or insignificant to what we will face in the legal profession. The rules and concepts learned in our first-year courses may seem irrelevant or ancient, but they serve as a foundation to almost every legal issue that we may encounter.

Today, in this political climate, it is more important than ever we understand the history and role of the different branches of government and how each case we will encounter effects the grand scheme of governance, our nation’s civility, and our respect for the rule of law. Working in Washington, DC, specifically with the Department of Justice and now the White House, I have a greater appreciation and understanding of the law. 

Gaining real world experience in crafting legal arguments, especially where legal disputes involve separation of power issues—leaving nothing to turn to but the Constitution and founding-era documents—is crucial for future legal practitioners who seek to challenge some of the most captivating and groundbreaking issues before us and on the horizon. 

Working under some of the most brilliant-minded scholars and legal practitioners at the White House Counsel’s Office and Department of Justice has given me great insight to what it means to be a lawyer.” 

Before joining the College of Law, Dorilás received a bachelor’s degree with honors in criminal justice with a minor in international relations from Florida International University. Before that, Dorilás was a Fire Controlman in the US Navy for over six years where he was in charge of planning and executing the deployment of Tomahawk land attack missiles on a Ballistic Missile Defense destroyer.