As a third-year law student, Brianna Vaughn knew she was interested in probate. To get more experience in the field, she spent her last semester at Drake Law School working as a judicial intern for Polk County Associate Probate Judge Craig Block.
“The internship was virtually one of the best things I did in my three years at Drake,” says the Indianola, Iowa, native.
As an intern, Vaughn observed trials, hearings, and meetings related to wills, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, and other probate-related matters.
She also did research for the judge, assisted in reviewing transcripts, discussed possible case outcomes, and drafted orders.
“Brianna was very astute in how she thought cases should be handled, and it was not unusual for her to critique or second guess attorneys after the hearing,” Block says. “She was quick to ask questions and really tried to maximize the value of the internship.”
Vaughn says her coursework and prior experience had prepared her for the internship. At Drake Law, she took classes on wills and trusts, will drafting, and estate and gift tax, as well as a capstone estate planning course and an independent study on a trust-related issue. She also worked at Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C. in Des Moines the previous summer.
“Having all that behind me, I had a good idea of what was going on in each of the hearings I observed,” Vaughn explains.
Vaughn says the internship taught her how to approach a judge and the importance of the work done by court reporters and attendants. On a more basic level, she learned practical tips on providing the judge with a draft order and bringing a list of names and spellings for the court reporter.
Most importantly, she gained insight into what judges consider during the decision-making process.
“It was a great learning experience to see where his head was at with various aspects of the cases that came before him,” Vaughn says. “I was proud to assist Judge Block, and it's always an honor when a judge uses your work in deciding an issue.”
Block says Vaughn was a great asset during the internship.
“She has an excellent grasp of the law and application, and she seemed to really enjoy the process,” Block explains. “She struck up conversations and would talk about cases with me and my court reporter. We could tell that she will make an excellent attorney.”
Vaughn graduated from Drake Law School in spring 2015. She now works as an associate attorney at Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C. and says her internship definitely played a role in her career.
“The whole experience solidified for me that estate planning was the field of law I wanted to practice right out of law school,” she says.