Summer Internship Q&A: Danielle Cipollina 2L and Stefano Perez 2L

Danielle Cipollina 2L and Stefano Perez 2L are interning with the New York City Law Department, the agency that represents the city in legal matters. They’re getting court time not only as future lawyers but also as doubles partners in the Law Department’s annual tennis tournament, where they just won their first match.

How is your internship going?

DC: It’s going great, and I’m getting experience that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. I’m learning everything the Manhattan Borough Unit of the Tort Division does to defend the city from personal injury claims. I’m in court right now because one of the attorneys I work with just started a trial. I’ve been coming to court almost every day since the internship started earlier this month.

SP: It’s been amazing. Every day is a new challenge, and every day I’m learning more about federal law, municipal law, and how those areas of law affect the lives of New Yorkers. I’m in the Special Federal Litigation Division, so my work involves federal litigation and defending police officers and correction officers from allegations of misconduct.

What projects and tasks are you working on?

DC: I’ve worked on about 15 to 20 cases so far. I’m going to court to observe compliance conferences, depositions, and motion arguments. Soon, I will be able to conduct my own deposition. On Tuesday, I was prepared to argue a motion for summary judgment before the judge. The other side didn’t appear, so I ended up speaking with the judge about contacting them. But I was ready!

SP: My work ranges from drafting substantive and procedural motions to attending depositions and attending and observing trials. I’ve also been assigned my own trial to work on with other attorneys here. So far, I’ve been to the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of New York, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Are there opportunities for mentoring with senior attorneys?

DC: Absolutely. Everyone at the office is very open and encouraging. The legal interns ask questions, and the attorneys we work with are all helpful. They take the time to make sure we are learning and that we have the chance to come to court and see everything they are involved in.

SP: There is no shortage of mentorship opportunities. In my division, we’re each assigned our own mentor who works with us as we navigate the ropes of federal and municipal litigation and who helps us learn all about the Law Department. Every single person I’ve had the privilege of meeting here has served as a valuable colleague and mentor and has greatly contributed to my experience.

Are you seeing the connection between your classes and this work? 

DC: Yes! I am watching exactly how tort cases play out in real life. I am also seeing connections with my Civil Procedure class and what I learned about trials, the different types of motions, and other parts of civil process. Everything I learned in Evidence has also been important during depositions and trial.

SP: My Constitutional Law class, with Professor Nadine Strossen, came to life so vividly when I started working with Special Fed, and I can see how the 4th and 14th Amendments play a role in defending claims against the City of New York. Also, my 1L year Torts class, with Professor Ari Waldman, was very relevant when I previously worked with the Law Department’s Tort Division through Dean Crowell and Professor Nina Jody’s Municipal Litigation Defense Clinic. It has been incredibly insightful to see the differences between the two levels of the judiciary—state and federal—and to see how the city handles different types of cases.

How does this internship connect to your career interests?

DC: Because I am very interested in litigation, there is no better place to get experience than in the public sector. The attorneys in MBU are in court every single day, and clients come in and out throughout the day for meetings and depositions. It is inspiring to watch the attorneys at MBU switch from one case to another in a matter of minutes. I want my career to be that exciting. I love New York City, it’s an absolute honor and privilege to intern here, and I cannot wait to see what the Law Department has in store for the rest of the summer. The relationship NYLS has with the Law Department definitely opened doors for me, and I am grateful.

SP: I’m very interested in public interest law, specifically federal litigation. This internship is spot on; it’s exactly what want to do. Before law school, I worked at the Florida House of Representatives. After seeing how government functions and the impact government has on the lives of everyday citizens, I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of the process and its success and that I would be committed to helping my community through public service and in every way possible.

Are there opportunities for extracurricular activities?

DC: Yes, the Law Department is great. Not only are we getting invaluable legal experience, we are going to Governors Island for a legal tour, and we have another match coming up in the tennis tournament. We will also take a boat tour of New York Harbor to see the impact the Law Department has had on Manhattan’s shoreline.

SP: Besides tennis, I’m a member of the Special Fed softball team. There are other activities coming up, like fitness classes and baseball games, which serve as fun and enriching experiences to interact with division attorneys and administration. It’s been great!