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An externship showed Alexander Kharaz ’06 (Holmdel, N.J.) one of the many directions his goal of a law career could take.

For more than a week, he shadowed New York Supreme Court Justice Sidney Strauss ’59 as he went about his duties in matrimonial court at the courthouse in Jamaica, Queens. A double major in English and history, Kharaz sat in on litigation hearings, conferences with attorneys, and settlement proceedings.

Kharaz is among more than 200 Lafayette students who recently gained first-hand knowledge of the professional world. They served externships with alumni and other experienced professionals in business, the arts, education, healthcare, law, engineering, science, government, non-profits, and other fields. The students observed work practices, learned about careers they may consider entering after college, and developed professional networking contacts. Although he might never become a judge, his time at the courthouse reinforced his desire to work in the legal arena, Kharaz says.

“I plan on going to law school and I thought it would benefit me to spend as much time around lawyers and judges as possible,” he says. “My main motivation for participating in the externship program was to get some insight on some inner workings of the legal system.”

The externship taught Kharaz invaluable information.

“In the classroom, you aren’t given the opportunity to sit next to a supreme court justice and see how he rules, the decisions he makes, what he says to counselors during conferences,” he says. “Seeing that up close and personal was really a thrill.”

Strauss, who has participated in the externship program for two years, says he, too, benefited from Kharaz’s presence in court and conference rooms. On more than one occasion as Strauss was discussing cases with lawyers, Kharaz would ask a question of a lawyer, which Strauss had encouraged him to do, and would bring about a new discussion point.

“In many cases, two heads are better than one and every once in while he would ask [a good] question and we went on from there, so at that particular moment I benefited from his participation,” Strauss says. “Also, while we were exchanging ideas during the course of a trial, he would pick up on something I had overlooked and bring it to my attention.

“And there was one situation where the husband in a case and his attorney were both Russian and apparently there was some agitation about what had transpired in the case, because as Alex and I were riding the elevator with them the client was speaking to his lawyer in Russian, totally unaware that Alex speaks Russian. Later Alex said to me he was not a happy person.”

Participating in the externship program has other benefits, Strauss adds.

“I certainly feel as though I have a close affinity to Lafayette and when an opportunity for direct contact with the school comes along, it make the whole relationship even stronger — not only with me and the student, but me and the school.”

Kharaz says he is thankful that Strauss has so much enthusiasm for the externship program.

“He shared everything with me, explaining why he rules a certain way, why he does things a certain way, and what he takes from his own personal life when deciding a case,” he says. “He was always very helpful and let me into his day-to-day routine wholeheartedly.”

Shadowing a Lafayette alumnus who practiced law for more than 40 years before donning a black robe was a great opportunity, says Kharaz.

“I never doubted Lafayette’s ability to turn out excellent graduates, but I was surprised that a supreme court justice graduated from Lafayette – I didn’t know that had occurred. It was definitely very reassuring and comforting to know that my college is turning out people like Justice Strauss,” he says.

Kharaz is a member of the mock trial team, Kirby Government and Law Society, Experience Lafayette Committee, and Chi Phi fraternity.

Categorized in: Academic News