As they conducted legal research and writing, reviewed evidence, and assisted clients, 12 UMass Law students received financial support and gained valuable experience in public sector law through their Public Interest Internships this summer.
In addition to supporting various offices in the Commonwealth and Rhode Island, students volunteered in the Queens County (New York) District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, and the Colorado Office of the Public Defender.
They were able to hone their research skills, communicate directly with clients, and learn about different areas of the law. Many students reported that what they learned in their law classes transferred to their internships and that their positive experiences influenced their career path.
“Since its inception, UMass Law has awarded summer stipends to a select group of law students volunteering in the public sector with a nonprofit or government organization,” said Leslie Becker Wilson, Esq., director for legal career services. “UMass Law highly values public service and believes that internships are one of the best ways for students to explore public sector law as a possible career path.”
This year presented challenges for students as most of their planned internships transferred from in-person to a remote experience due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, many students reported that their offices made the transition successfully.
Samantha Reid, JD ’22, interned for Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Rhode Island, researching and writing bench memos explaining the different aspects of cases for the judge. Cases ranged from bankruptcy to international, criminal, constitutional, family law, and criminal procedure. Hearing oral arguments, even remotely, helped Reid understand how to be an effective attorney, she said.
“This was the internship I have been waiting for all my life,” Reid said. “I got to see a real judge at work and within the federal system. It was the greatest experience to work in chambers, and I hope to continue on that path by applying to be a law clerk for a judge’s chambers after graduation.”
Gage Thomas, JD ’22 interned at the Fair Employment Project based in Cambridge, MA, a nonprofit organization that works closely with lawyers, law students, and advocates to reduce violations of employment civil rights. He communicated with clients about their cases and reported to the agency’s director.
“The opportunity to directly communicate with clients has been a great learning experience as I have had real-world experience speaking with clients and gaining professional skills. I have been able to practice and improve my research skills as well as learn about the expansive area of employment law,” Thomas said.
At the Worcester (MA) District Attorney’s Office, Quan Le, JD ’21 learned about criminal law and procedure, specifically Fourth Amendment issues related to current statutes and case law in Massachusetts.
“My time with the office was valuable because I met, worked with, and learned from several assistant district attorneys who displayed an honest interest in my development, and they were highly thoughtful by making sure I was comfortable about the type and amount of assignments. After my time there, I am planning to pursue the practice of criminal law when I begin my career,” said Le.
In the Northern District of Alabama, Natalie Newsom, JD ’21, interned at the United States District Court for the Hon. Abdul K. Kallon. She performed legal research and writing and was able to hone her skills in research, task management, self-discipline, and drafting effective written communication. The experience, she said, was “the foundation of all lawyering.”
“Being able to work for a judge was an incredible privilege that I am so grateful for. Never again will I be given access to a judge in this manner, and the advice offered on crafting my future as an attorney, effective oral advocacy, and moral character is priceless,” Newsom said.
The following UMass Law students also completed Public Interest Internships: Maryam Banuelas, JD ’22, Greater Boston Legal Services, Immigration Unit; Thomas Brennan, JD ’21, City of Providence Law Department; Reaz Khan, JD ’21, Queen’s County (NY) District Attorney’s Office; Youjeen Kang, JD ’21, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson; Abigaelle Ngamboma, JD ’22, U.S. District Court of Rhode Island, Judge William E. Smith; Sara O’Brien, JD ’22, Greater Boston Legal Services, Housing Unit; Brian Sanger, JD ’22, Colorado Office of the Public Defender; and Laura Trevino, JD ’21, Committee of Public Counsel Services, Mental Health Litigation Division.
Interns were selected by a committee of law school staff and faculty based on their commitment to public sector law, including prior public sector experience, their ability to represent UMass Law, and the likelihood that the internship will both further the applicant’s legal training and serve the public.
Students were required to perform 160 hours of work and found their internships either through recruiting programs, job postings, referrals, or networking.