Georgi Pisano Goetz ’20L’ Washington and Lee University

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Georgi Pisano Goetz ’20L is originally from Frederick, VA, but has worked in Baltimore, Austin, San Francisco and Seoul, South Korea. Prior to joining the Virgin Islands District Court, where she currently serves as a clerk for a United States Magistrate, she served as a clerk at Baltimore City Circuit Court. Outside of work, she develops an encyclopedic knowledge of MTV reality shows and plans which distant location to move to next.

Did you know that when you entered law school, you wanted to become a law clerk after graduation?

No, and I definitely didn’t want to be a clerk after I graduated. I plan to get into impact litigation and thought internships were best suited for those getting into more traditional corporate work. Graduating in 2020 turned my plans upside down and I fortunately discovered that I was wrong to have such a limited perception of the opportunities an internship could offer.

How did you find your internship?

My current day school is at the federal level, so I found it on OSCAR. I was a state intern when I applied and thought, for various reasons, that I would not be a competitive candidate for a federal internship. I wasn’t at the top of my class, I didn’t do a law review, and I was applying out of season (early spring for a fall internship that same year). Based on what I learned about the internship process as a student, I thought the whole thing was disqualifying. I was so surprised to see that there were still a lot of federal judges accepting applications in the spring, and I also suspect there are fewer applicants because students are encouraged to apply early (usually at the end of summer/early fall for an internship that would not start until the following year). Despite my perceived “missing” credentials, my judge hired me because I had previously worked overseas and needed a clerk who could handle the move to the Virgin Islands.

What types of legal issues do you deal with on a daily basis?

I’m a clerk to an investigating judge, which means he handles non-decisive motions. In clear terms, “inconclusive” means any motion that will not settle the matter. I see a lot of pre-trial motions, and the magistrate is usually the first to meet with the parties at an initial planning conference. I see a ton of motions to stay proceedings.

If the parties consent to the magistrate’s jurisdiction, or if the district judge refers a motion to the magistrate for a report and recommendation, I deal with dispositive motions, which are often motions to dismiss.

We recently had several lawsuits – which is rare for a magistrate – because several individuals challenged citations they had received from the National Park Service (also quite rare).

What did you enjoy most about your externship?

The obvious answer is the correct one, that location is the best part. Working in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands is an amazing experience. Professionally, the internship is very educational and the legal community on an island of 40,000 inhabitants is naturally united. Personally, the opportunity to live in Sainte-Croix and discover the island and relax on the most beautiful beaches in the country is unparalleled. Both personally and professionally, the experience to grow and push myself outside of my comfort zone (and onto island time) has been invaluable.

Which W&L courses and/or experiences do you think were the most helpful in preparing you for this job?

You can research any matter of law. The best starting point for an internship is therefore to have a good understanding of the timetable – when the parties will appear before the judge, what they are likely to ask at that time, etc. Thus, the civil procedure and the criminal procedure are very useful. I promise they make more sense in practice than trying to learn them from a textbook!

A big part of clerkship is learning your judge’s idiosyncrasies. In this way, any class taught by a judge, such as Trial Advocacy or Appellate Advocacy Practicum, provides good insight.

Finally, and this is frustrating because I really hated it at the time, legal research and writing taught me the skills I use the most.

What are your plans now that your externship is over?

I will be a clerk in El Paso Immigration Court under the Department of Justice Honors Program. Yes, after thinking that I never wanted to be a clerk, I will now have done three! A legal career, like many things in life, is difficult to predict.

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