Works and Days

Public Citizen Litigation, Reed Winter Externship Program, Pedro Henriques Da Silva

A Reed winter externship program participant, Pedro Henriques Da Silva, first year physics major, spent a week in Washington D.C. working with Paul Levy ’72 at Public Citizen Litigation Group

 Paul Levy’s had a death in the family. He’d warned me this might happen, and now it has. I. Am. So. Sorry. And, in what will be a preview of his personality, he seems far more concerned with getting me all set up while he’s away, than I would ever expect given the circumstances. This is the beginning of an interesting and unexpected externship.

On the fifth of January I found my way to the office. I don’t know if it was the D.C. cold or the nervousness of the first day, but somehow I stepped out of the metro station and failed to see the large brick building with the “Public Citizen” banner at the top directly across the street from me. So for several unnecessary minutes, I followed my smart-phone guidance back the way I’d come until I realized my mistake. Inside I’m met with history, determination, and originality. I speak to the nice lady at the front desk who calls Peter Maybarduk and informs him that an intern named Pedro was here. She then directed me to the elevator around the corner and to go to the Attic.

Upstairs I meet Peter, and Hannah Brennan. Peter briefs me on what they do here in the Access to Medicines Department, which is where I’ll be working until Paul returns. Hannah shows me around the building. Then each of them gave me reading material: “Intellectual Properties and Medicines” and “Compulsory License and Government Use to Promote Access to Medicines: Some Examples” by Martin Khor and various contributors. They don’t expect me to really read all of it, I don’t think, but I guess Paul failed to mention I was a Reedie. I read 300 pages total until leaving around 6, determining I’d gotten a good gist for TRIPS and the doha and parallel imports and other patent law concepts. As I leave, they apologize for “not having enough for me to do.” But I actually leave feeling fulfilled; I’ve spent my first day learning, which is exactly what I’d come to do. Hell, I’m not a lawyer (yet) so I really wasn’t expecting to be able to help all that much, and having an opportunity to just learn about patent law as a college freshman seems pretty fantastic to me.


The next day I hazard the snow to get to the office. The beginning of the day was very slow, having already read all of the suggested reading. Suddenly, I’m given two projects to complete, and I’m hoping I can be helpful! The next few days consist of working on getting in touch with certain individuals as to create a coalition of organizations and people to push congress to enact certain legislation that I am not sure how much I can share about, but involves making medicine more accessible to those in middle-income countries.

On the eighth, I finally meet Paul. I sit in on some very interesting moot court sessions, and feel both intimidated and proud, as I am the only undergraduate in a room full of lawyers and top law students. I have several opportunities to sit in on conference calls and really get a taste of what goes on in the very free, yet driven world of public advocacy and litigation. I even get my own office (see picture to the right)! One of the definite highlights of my time there was a talk that Paul hosted, by Reed’s own Paul Gronke, on why congress is broken. There I met a lot of people from the D.C. chapter of Reed’s alumni network, which was invigorating—it’s always fun to be reminded that life beyond Reed isn’t just real; it’s exciting.

On my last day, there are a lot of apologies and worries that I did not get as much out of this experience as I could have. But I really hope that I conveyed how much that isn’t true. I went in to Public Citizen with three tentative goals in mind: to build on my network of people (and maybe friends) involved in the kind of work I might like to do, to get a feel what that kind of work is like, and, above all, to learn everything I could.

Mission accomplished.

Tags: reed winter externship , alumni, public citizen, litigation, court, law