McGeorge School of Law

Elizondo’s Summer DC Internship Experience with Chief Judge Hagel

September 2, 2015

McGeorge student intern Michael J. Elizondo, Chief Judge Lawrence Hagel, United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, DC.

McGeorge student intern Michael J. Elizondo, Chief Judge Lawrence Hagel, United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, D.C.

Michael J. Elizondo, '17, served in an internship during summer 2015 in the nation's capital, as part of McGeorge School of Law's eight-year-old DC Fellowship program.

Elizondo served in the chambers of Chief Judge Lawrence Hagel, '76, United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. At the beginning of the internship Chief Judge Hagel provided a course in Veterans Law, at the Court's expense, that allowed Elizondo to master the subject and engage in substantive work through his internship. After learning the basics, Elizondo was engaged in research about Veterans Law as well as Statutory Interpretation.

"Chief Judge Hagel even had me draft a memorandum on my very first day," reported Elizondo, an experience he credits to having taken the McGeorge course Statutes and Regulation during his first year of law school and the training he received in GLS I.

Among his many accomplishments over the summer, Elizondo drafted one memorandum decision where he helped adjudicate a veteran's claim for benefits, two single-judge Equal Access to Justice Act cases where he helped determine whether the award of attorney's fees was appropriate and in what amount, four dispositive orders, and fourteen non-dispositive orders. Elizondo added that Chief Judge Hagel told him when he was sworn in that he wouldn't settle for less than A-level work. "I'm proud to say that I met that standard and that the time I spent in his Chambers was the most satisfying professional experience of my life. The Chief was even more excited than I was when I told him I made Law Review!"

Elizondo describes Washington DC as a vibrant, amazing city. "I would tell any future DC Fellowship students that getting the most out of the city is of paramount importance; you have to be willing to put yourself out there," Elizondo said. "Chief Judge Hagel was quick to offer suggestions and encouraged my taking advantage of every opportunity in the city ranging from going to museums during work days, to sitting in on Veterans Court mediation sessions, to hearing oral arguments at the Federal Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Chief Judge Hagel was even able to have me be in the U.S. Supreme Court chambers the day the Obamacare decision, King v. Burwell, was decided."

Elizondo gave several interviews while attending the US Supreme Court Affordable Healthcare Act decision on June 25, 2015, and he was quoted in a broadcast news story on Washington DC's CBS channel.

"I also made a point to visit Nationals Park when the Los Angeles Dodgers were in town as I'm a huge Dodgers fan," beamed Elizondo, "The Dodgers took two of three on some of the hottest days of the summer." Elizondo had the chance to visit nearby New York City for the first time, and enjoyed 72 hours of "racing around the city doing everything touristy thing I could find, like walking the Brooklyn Bridge."

With his focus on a career in International Law, Elizondo has been given advice by mentors, such as Professor Omar Dajani and McGeorge Alumnus Bob MacKichan, Jr., '76, that he should prepare to live in DC or move where there was international work. "I could see myself living in DC," said Elizondo. "DC isn't for everyone, but to me, it felt like home."

McGeorge provides fellowship funds to a select group of students who want to spend the summer in Washington, DC. Its strong alumni network there helps to place individual students in relevant internships. Elizondo also said that, "The alums I met were very generous with their time in showing me the ropes of the city. I've made connections and friendships that will last far beyond this summer and well into my professional career. I feel as if I owe a debt to them and to the Fellows that come after me."

Gustavo Matheus, '96, is active in the McGeorge Washington, D.C., alumni chapter and has worked with other D.C. alumni to help McGeorge students secure internship placements.

"McGeorge graduates in DC are always open to helping our school's students find internships and it is the one of the best ways for us alumni to help future graduates find jobs," said Matheus. "Through mentors in these internships, students gain life-changing and career-informing experiences, helping to guide them professionally and distinguish them from their peers in the job market."

In closing, Elizondo said "I enthusiastically recommend that McGeorge students apply for the program. I look forward to working with Molly Stafford of the Career Development Office in the coming year to promote the program."