Assistant Director Legal Externship Program
Judicial and Private Firm Externships
B.A., Stony Brook University
J.D., Stanford Law School
Michael Kovaka has practiced law and mentored young lawyers and law students for more than 25 years. A nationally-recognized First Amendment attorney, Kovaka represented newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and members of the online media throughout the country as partner and special counsel with Dow Lohnes and its eventual merger partner Cooley, LLP. As a litigator, he has defended members of the press in scores of actions for defamation, invasion of privacy, and related torts at every level of the state and federal judiciaries, including representing parties and amici in eight proceedings before the United States Supreme Court. As a counselor, he has advised journalists on a wide range of newsroom matters, including prepublication review, protection of news sources, electronic newsgathering, newsroom subpoenas, and access to government records, meetings and proceedings. Kovaka also served as general counsel to the Online News Association, the world’s largest association of digital journalists.
As an international public interest lawyer, Kovaka provided legal services to government and NGO clients in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East with the Public International Law and Policy Group, a global pro bono law firm. Serving as director for the State Department-funded Justice and the People project, he created Kosovo’s first major strategic litigation initiative, successfully litigating landmark cases against the Office of the Prime Minister, Kosovo Judicial Council, Kosovo Prosecutorial Council, and Kosovo Police. Kovaka also led a national Kosovar citizens’ advocacy campaign, which successfully fought for a variety of justice system reforms, including a citizens’ legislative initiative leading to enactment of a national law guaranteeing citizens full compensation for all human rights violations committed by state actors. Kovaka also helped advise the Government of South Sudan on a variety of issues, including preparation for the 2011 referendum on independence and the post-independence constitutional amendment process.
Throughout his career, Kovaka has embraced and supported experiential learning for law students. While a student at Stanford, he learned the value of experiential learning first hand, both in the classroom and working at placements with five different legal organizations in the non-profit, government, and private sectors. As an attorney, he headed a large summer associate program as a partner in a national law firm, supervised and taught dozens of student researchers from American University’s Washington College of Law, created internship programs with RIT Kosovo and the University of Pristina Law Faculty, and mentored numerous individual law students. Kovaka serves as Assistant Director of the Legal Externship Program and teaches the Private Firm Legal Externship Seminar.