Putting skills in context

smiling woman standing in front of bookcases.

“Representing the government is serious, whether it’s in a civil or criminal context,” says Carina Schoenberger. “People’s rights are at stake.”

She knows that truth from long experience. Schoenberger, who joins the law school faculty this fall as a lecturer in the Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (LAWR) program, is making the move to academia after a dozen years as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA)—first in the Southern District of New York, in New York City, and then in the Syracuse office of the Northern District.

It was an experience that ranged broadly. In the Southern District, Schoenberger brought lawsuits and defended the government in the district’s Civil Division. She handled cases involving financial and health care fraud, civil rights, tax, bankruptcy and torts. After moving to the Northern District, she worked as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division, investigating and prosecuting financial fraud, child exploitation, immigration and drug crimes, before moving to the Appeals Division, where she represented the United States before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in both criminal and civil appellate cases. She co-ran the office’s law student internship program, and, as senior litigation counsel, developed training programs for new AUSAs.

Schoenberger also brings to the classroom the context of three years of litigation practice with a St. Louis firm, where she handled cases involving intellectual property, class and derivative actions, and commercial litigation.

Not to mention her contagious enthusiasm for helping to mold the careers of the next generation of lawyers. “I really loved being a practicing lawyer,” she says, “and I also really love teaching. At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I enjoyed working with people early in their careers and helping people with their legal writing. Having spent significant time as a practitioner, I can help contextualize the skills students are learning.”

Schoenberger, a Connecticut native, was a history major at Columbia University before going on to earn a JD at New York University School of Law. NYU Law has a similar intensive legal skills program for first-year students, but she acknowledges that the research and writing skills learned in the classroom inevitably will be refined and deepened during the early years of students’ careers.

“I’m hoping to provide a broader context for what students are learning,” she says. “And I want them to know they can translate the skills they learn in class to different contexts. One thing I’ve been trying to convey is that learning to think like a lawyer doesn’t mean you stop thinking like a human. The experiences students have already had as readers, writers and thinkers will help them as they do legal reading, writing and thinking.”

Now, shepherding 27 students through their LAWR program with twice-a-week class sessions, she’s finding good ideas from her faculty colleagues as she crafts the curriculum. “It’s a really supportive department, and everyone has been tremendously generous with their time and their materials,” Schoenberger says.

 And as for the teaching itself: “I’m having a blast. I didn’t know it was going to be so much fun.”