Public Interest Law Initiative

Making the Most of the Intern and Fellow Experience: Highlights from the 2019 Legal Service Agency Roundtable

Posted on: March 18, 2019

On March 13th, representatives from Illinois public interest law agencies met at the offices of Katten Muchin Rosenman for PILI’s annual Legal Service Agency Roundtable. They discussed strategies to improve the agency experience for interns and fellows including monitoring and evaluating tasks, developing performance evaluations and exit interviews, and engaging the whole organization.

Assigning, Monitoring and Evaluating Tasks by Interns and Fellows

Barbara Barreno-Paschall of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights led a discussion about monitoring and evaluating tasks. Many agencies assigned their interns and fellows long-term projects to be worked on throughout the placement so they always have something to work on. It was agreed that having one key supervisor for each intern and fellow who was readily available for questions was ideal. Some agencies found creating a spreadsheet in Google Docs helped them keep track of assignments and another agency encouraged their interns and fellows to peer review each other’s work before presenting it to a supervisor to help cut down on basic editing and revising for supervisors.

Developing Performance Evaluations and Exit Interviews for Interns and Fellows

Thomas Wendt of Center for Disability & Elder Law led a discussion on developing evaluations and exit interviews for interns and fellows. He shared that his agency sends a survey to interns and fellows before they start to get an idea of what projects they would be interested in and to help set expectations. Attendees also discussed strategies for making sure mid-point and exit interviews happened. It was agreed that these interviews, especially mid-term interviews, are extremely important as they allow the supervisors and the interns and fellows to deliver feedback on their experience and make adjustments if necessary.

Engaging the Whole Organization in Work with Interns, Fellows and Pro Bono Volunteers

Caroline Chapman of Legal Council for Health Justice led a discussion on engaging the whole organization. One suggestion was to introduce the interns and fellows to the entire staff during their tour and orientation, emphasizing the importance of everyone’s role, especially non-lawyers. One supervisor suggested asking interns, fellows and volunteers if they had any non-legal interests and expertise such as grant writing, graphic design, or social media and to provide opportunities for them to utilize those skills as well. Another supervisor suggested providing a staff directory with photographs to interns and fellows to help them learn the staff as well as an intern and fellow directory for the entire staff to see to help to get to know the new class.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2019 Legal Service Agency Roundtable. We are planning our Illinois Forum on Pro Bono for the fall, which brings together law firm pro bono leaders as well as corporate, agency and law school pro bono leaders. More information will be available soon.

Learn more about the PILI’s Pro Bono Program »

Learn more about PILI’s Roundtables and Forums »

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