Internships gave U leaders leg up

The odds weren’t in Kirk Jowers’ favor when he made the jump from law school to a career in political law.

As a student at Harvard Law School in 1993, Jowers knew few students from his class would wind up using their law degrees in politics. Many of his classmates wanted to step into the political arena, but getting a job with a law firm in Washington, D.C., was no easy task.

In his second year at law school, Jowers, a U alumnus, was pitted against 19 other Harvard law students competing for a single spot with Wiley Rein & Fielding, a top Republican law firm. While his opponents had similarly impressive GPAs and test scores, Jowers had something that set him apart–he had completed five political internships.

“They knew I would understand the process of government,” Jowers said.

Jowers won the coveted position and a high-profile Washington career followed.

During his time in Washington, Jowers has helped draft the bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and served as campaign legal counsel to President George W. Bush; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Now, Jowers has returned to the U to serve as director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics–the organization he says gave him the edge in landing his first job. As an undergraduate student, he served four internships through the Institute–including internships with former Congressman Jim Hansen and Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter.

“When I say I owe everything to the Hinckley Institute, it’s not just lip service,” he said.

Jowers is just one among dozens of U alumni and local leaders whose early internships led to successful political and academic careers.

Among the Hinckley Institute’s more prominent former interns are White House advisor Karl Rove and Utah Congressman Rob Bishop. Many local politicians are also former Hinckley interns–including Salt Lake City mayoral candidate Dave Buhler, former state Sen. Patrice Arent and current state Rep. Ross Romero.

University of Utah President Michael K. Young said the clerkships he served during his time in law school gave him the advantage of knowing how to apply legal theory to real clients. Though he didn’t participate in any internships during his undergraduate years, he said students should take advantage of the opportunity and apply what they learn in classes.

“It enriches and deepens, in a very profound way, that more book-oriented and classroom-oriented way of learning,” Young said. “It’s sort of a simulation exercise on steroids.”

[email protected]