In a few short weeks, our summer Law Student Interns and Graduate Fellows will be starting at their agencies. To prepare, we reached out to some of our Intern & Fellow supervisors who offered the below advice.
Aneesha Ghandi, National Immigrant Justice Center
Immerse yourself in the organization’s work and be open to learning as much as you can from the attorneys and legal workers around you during your Internship or Fellowship. I believe it is also important to clearly communicate with your supervisor/s and ask for clarification when needed.
Phil Mohr, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
Gain trust quickly. Whenever I’m asked to write references about past Interns, the one trait that makes me excited to promote them is their trustworthiness. Be on time, pay attention to detail, follow instructions, care about the quality of your work, and meet deadlines! You will notice that the attorneys at your organization are all very busy and may not be focused on you. Don’t be fooled. There will be times when the focus is on you. If you are diligent and productive early on, you will engender trust in you.
Andrew Sharp, Illinois Legal Aid Online
Pay attention in meetings, even if it doesn’t directly impact your work. Interns and Fellows are often invited to staff-wide or practice group-wide meetings so that they can get exposed to the larger operations of the organization. It doesn’t look good if you are doodling, texting, or surfing the web. Also you never know when you might hear something that does affect your work.
Erica Spangler Raz, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
Please don’t wait for interesting assignments. When attending staff meetings or observing client calls, it’s helpful for Interns and Fellows to take initiative and volunteer for research projects or follow-up client work. In our office we try to give projects to Interns and Fellows that show interest in them, and that also ensures that you have a good learning experience.
Kate Shank, LAF
Be prepared for assignments. When you meet with your supervisor (any advocate who could give you an assignment) always bring a pen, paper, and your calendar. It always makes me nervous when I ask an Intern for help with a case and they don’t have any way to write down what is being asked!
Barry Taylor, Equip for Equality
If there isn’t a formal mechanism for assignment feedback at your agency, and you haven’t heard back from an attorney about the work you’ve done, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback. Most attorneys are happy to do this, but sometimes forget to provide feedback because they’re busy. One strategy for following up is for you to ask if they have any questions about the work you’ve done or if they need anything else done on that matter.
Marisa Wiesman, Prairie State Legal Services
Take your time: Your supervisor understands that it will take an Intern (or a new lawyer, for that matter) longer to draft a pleading or to research a topic than it will take an experienced attorney to complete the same task. We don’t expect you to churn out a motion in five minutes. Be mindful of deadlines, but take time to learn.
Pat Wrona, CARPLS
Legal aid is notoriously under resourced. It’s definitely an “all hands on deck” kind of environment. Everyone pitches in, without respect to title or position. Going in with a “can do” attitude, understanding that no task is insignificant if it benefits the clients and the agency, will be a good first step to success in a legal aid Internship or Fellowship.
Susan Zielke, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation
Ask questions! The staff does not bite, and they want you to be successful. Do not worry about being perfect, because we realize this is a learning experience for you. However, always do your best work. This displays your commitment to the work, as well as your actual ability, and will reflect well on you when your supervisor is assessing your work.