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Heading Straight for the Courtroom – Student Success Story

Arielle Heald, Class of 2019

Arielle Heald

Few law students have cross-examined a witness during a federal trial, but Arielle Heald got to do just that.  

As part of her co-op placement with the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, Heald helped with the defense of a physician who had worked for the Veteran’s Administration in a medical malpractice case.  

Heald’s supervisor allowed her to cross examine a witness during trial in the courtroom of Judge Juan Ramon Sanchez, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.   

“It was cool,” Heald recalled, before adding, as an afterthought: “we won.”  

Another assignment allowed Heald to help an assistant U.S. attorney prepare for arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Third Circuit. The office won that case as well, when the Third Circuit ruled that transportation safety officers are not considered law enforcement officers under the Torts Claim Act.  

The experiences affirmed what Heald had known since she studied history and Arabic as an undergraduate: that she wanted to work in government service. It also underscored what she had discovered during a summer internship with U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia Rufe: that she likes being in court.  

During her 2L summer, Heald landed one of just 30 paid internships with the U.S. Air Force, which exposed her to a very different kind of courtroom experience.   

“I like public service,” Heald said. “Law firms aren’t even on my radar.” 

Heald credited the law school’s Career Strategies Office with helping her line up that plum position.  

“Amy Weiss was amazing! She knew who to contact and sent me to all the right info sessions,” Heald said, referring to the CSO’s director of private sector and government employment.  

The internship helped get Heald’s foot in the door. After graduation, she will head to the Air Force, where she will join the Judge Advocate General Corps and begin trying cases right away.  

“This is what I wanted coming in,” Heald said. “Drexel had all the right connections and people and professors.”