Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Externship Profile: Blake Brittain (’11)
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Office of Communications and Public Relations
August 1, 2011
What started out as an externship to test the waters of a career in foreign policy, turned into a front row seat in history for third-year law student Blake Brittain (’11).
As revolution swept the Middle East in the spring, Brittain found the research he was doing at the Rule of Law Initiative’s Middle East and North Africa division of the American Bar Association was being used to develop policies for new governments in the region.
“I’ve had to do a lot more fast-paced projects than I originally anticipated, which was really exciting and interesting,” he said.
His research on how street children twelve and younger in the region were swept up
by police, tortured and kept indefinitely in overcrowded prisons with adults, became part
of a white paper on pretrial juvenile detention in Lebanon.
“After having taken an international human rights class, I felt like I was speaking
the language necessary to write about the law on this issue,” he said. “This made it far
easier to research and write the white paper than it would have been otherwise.”
Linking academic knowledge to real world experience is the goal of the Wake Forest
School of Law program in Washington.
The program allows third-year students to spend their spring semester interning
in Washington D.C., as well as participating in conferences, lectures and symposia.
Students receive ten credits for field work and three graded credits for their classwork.
Students may be placed in such governmental agencies as the Departments of
Justice or State, or independent agencies, such as the Federal Communications
Non-governmental group placements include human rights organizations or such
international organizations as the International Monetary Fund or World Bank.
Adjunct professor David J. Gottlieb, who organizes the project, also conducts weekly
class sessions where he explores issues common to externs.
For Brittain, the program succeeded beyond his expectations.
At first, no one expected the uprisings in the Middle East would amount to much, he
“But as the protests turned into revolutions, it was inspiring to see ordinary people
can create such monumental changes,” he said.
Brittain researched and wrote about anti-corruption efforts in Egypt, as well as
financial, media and police reform. He saw how international agreements, treaties and
UN resolutions translate into policies that bring democratic concepts to people around
“I was surprised I finally got to use the things I learned in a class like international
human rights, which was one of my favorite classes in law school,” he said.
For Brittain, the externship also gave him newfound confidence about his own path.
“I came into law school, I guess, somewhat unsure of what I wanted to do,” he said.
“I loved taking political science classes in college and I thought I’d like to work in a
policy-related job, say on Capitol Hill, in Congress or at a non-profit organization like the
Rule of Law Initiative. A job like this has probably clarified that I’m on the right path to
doing what I wanted to do.”