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SIXTH CIRCUIT: Sarah Perlmutter: Clerking in Israel During the Gaza Conflict


By M. Blair James

M. Blair James is a 3L at the University of Kentucky College of Law in Lexington.

In today’s economic climate, law students jump for joy with the opportunity to work as a summer clerk at a firm or government entity. While most students seek work in familiar territory, some students receive a rare and eye-opening chance to work in the legal field abroad.

Sarah Perlmutter, a 3L at the University of Kentucky College of Law, knew she wanted to integrate her passion for traveling with her passion for practicing law. As a result, Perlmutter began searching the Internet for any possible legal internship or clerkship opportunity available. After researching programs, Perlmutter discovered Israel Way, a program that assisted her with locating housing and employment in Israel. Her personal initiatives directed her to a global relocation firm, Kan-tor & Acco, in a town outside of Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Perlmutter’s job at Kan-tor & Acco revolved around immigration law. Specifically, she worked in the United States department where she assisted Israeli companies and CEOs seeking visas to enter the United States. Working at an international firm provided a unique opportunity to receive hands-on experience and to understand the great cultural difference that must be navigated when practicing law abroad.

One of the greatest challenges Perlmutter faced involved the conflict between Hamas and Israel and how it impacted her ability to meet the demands of her clients. As a result of the ongoing conflict, the embassy was closed or had limited hours. When this happened, Perlmutter would need to communicate with the clients why the firm could not assist them immediately due to the embassy closing. As a result, the conflict occasionally caused companies and CEOs to cancel or alter their travel plans until the embassy reopened.

Working abroad in Israel during such a turbulent time also provided her with valuable life experiences. She said she will never forget the first time she heard the siren indicating a rocket was heading in her direction and subsequently running to the closest shelter. She will never forget seeing rockets explode over Tel-Aviv as a result of the Iron Dome. And she will not forget taking cover in one of the conference rooms at the firm that also served as a bomb shelter.

Her experiences in Israel not only taught her valuable lessons regarding the practice of law on the international stage, but also taught her about compassion and navigating cultural nuances—all the while keeping cool under fire. These skills will surely take her far as she prepares to launch her legal career.

Vol. 43 No. 4

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.