Classroom Learning, Applied

Yu '12 interns at U.S. Supreme Court
Yu '12  interns at U.S. Supreme Court
Thursday, March 22, 2012

As an intern this semester in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Phoebe Yu '12 feels privileged to listen to some oral arguments.

"Most of the time, the cases are incredibly complex and it's difficult to understand the arguments without reading the briefs first," she said.

Yu heard Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, cases related to the liability of corporations for human rights abuses abroad.

"A lot of the background for the case was actually covered in Professor Lance Compa's International Labor Law class, which I took last year. It's very exciting seeing what I learned in ILR being applied in landmark cases in the real world," she said.

On weekday mornings, Yu summarizes news articles for a court email list.

"I enjoy this part of my job tremendously because it both polishes my editing and writing skills and helps me keep abreast of current events and legal commentaries," she said in an interview.

Yu's Supreme Court work includes contributing to court briefings on the American judicial system for visiting international delegations of foreign judges, lawyers, scholars and government officials.

Through the Cornell in Washington program in March, university students met Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a 1954 graduate of the university's College of Arts & Sciences.

Ginsburg discussed women in the judiciary, her clerking preferences and her views on what kinds of constitutions best serve as models for countries establishing constitutions.

Yu, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, said, "Everyone I've met at the court has been incredibly warm and welcoming. It's a small community within the Court and as interns, we are given quite a bit of responsibility."

Yu credits ILR professors with helping her finish her undergraduate years with a Supreme Court internship and offers at the world's best law schools.

"I definitely could not have done this without the help of ILR professors such as Professor Lance Compa, Professor Michael Gold and Professor Eli Friedman, my thesis adviser."

Accepted at Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, University of Chicago Law School, Cornell Law School and others, Yu expects to make a decision this month on which offer to accept.

"Whether it is through coursework or advising, they have imparted to me the importance of the law from a labor standpoint and motivated me to pursue both the judicial internship at the Supreme Court and the law profession."

A year ago, Yu was studying law and economics at Oxford University in St. Catherine's College.

After graduation from ILR in May, Yu will work in investment banking for two years at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, where she interned last summer.

In 2014, she plans to start law school after a two-year deferral.