Prior to this summer I had never been outside of Massachusetts for any substantial period of time. For this reason, one of my goals for this summer was to broaden my horizons and experience some new things outside of my comfort zone. Spending the summer in New York City has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and it has opened my eyes to whole new world of possibilities. Before this summer I had been quite content to apply exclusively to law schools close to home in Boston but now I am considering New York schools, as well as schools in Chicago, Washington D.C and even Los Angeles.
Another goal that I had for this summer was to gain some firsthand exposure to how family court operates. By regularly attending court proceedings with my supervisor, I was able to observe how things work in an actual court of law and to pick the brains of the attorney’s with whom I interacted. In fact, my inquisitive nature actually made an impression on a few attorneys and a couple of my conversations led to impromptu lunches, which turned out to be great networking opportunities.
I also wanted to apply the academic knowledge that I’ve gained at Brandeis to real-life and this internship granted me the opportunity to do just that. A great deal of sociological scholarship is devoted to how individual agents interact with social infrastructures. By interviewing clients and watching the lawyers advocate their wishes in the courtroom, I was able to witness this phenomenon in action. As a sociologist who subscribes to the tenets of conflict theory, I have always had a somewhat cynical outlook on “the system” but this internship has really altered my perspective. In stark contrast to the adversarial atmosphere that I experienced in criminal court, the collaborative and collegial atmosphere that pervaded family court gave me the distinct impression that everyone was genuinely invested in a common goal and that engendered a very pleasant and productive work environment. Seeing how passionate not only the professionals at LFC but the judges and opposing counsel truly were about helping these disadvantaged children was quite refreshing and has given me a less pessimistic view of “the system”.
I am nearing the end of my undergraduate experience and I have been fortunate to have had some amazing internships in both corporate and criminal law but interning at LFC this summer allowed me to foray into an avenue of the law that is of particular interest to me: family law. And while I still do not have a concrete vision of what type of law I ultimately want to pursue, I am certain that the experience I gained this summer will greatly facilitate my decision making process when the time comes to make what will be perhaps, the most important decision of my career.
The advice that I would give to anyone interested in interning at LFC or in the legal in general is to have an idea of what you want to get out of your internship and be assertive about making sure you get the most out of your experience. With that being said, I also think it’s good to keep an open mind and be willing to learn about things that you might otherwise have not experienced. Other than that, I would just say to cherish the opportunity and show your gratitude to Brandeis by representing them to the best of your ability.
– Aaron Bray ’13
This Summer is Flying Faster Than a New York Minute
From reading the other WOW blogs, it sounds like everyone is having an amazing summer. As for me, I would have to say that my internship has definitely met and exceeded all of my expectations thus far. As an aspiring lawyer, the goal I was most excited about fulfilling this summer was getting an opportunity to experience the actual courtroom proceedings that take place in Manhattan Family Court. I expressed this desire to my supervisor at the onset of my internship and she has been quite accommodating in allowing me to gain exposure to a wide variety of different proceedings. It has been a great learning experience for me to observe courtroom procedure and to pick up on the often subtle nuances that distinguish the more refined lawyers from their peers. I was relatively familiar with how criminal courtrooms are run from previous experience but this internship has allowed me to broaden my perspective and such knowledge will be quite useful when the time comes for me to decide which type of law I would ultimately like to pursue.
Being a Sociology major, another goal that I had for the summer was to gain some real-life experiential learning to contrast with the theoretical knowledge I’ve acquired in the classroom. It is one thing to read about how social infrastructures, such as the legal system, can affect people’s lives but it is another thing entirely to experience first-hand the profound impact that even seemingly minute legal decisions can have on a client’s life. I have been fortunate in my short time at LFC to witness a broad spectrum of outcomes: from triumphant victories where families have been reunited to tragic cases where children are separated from their loved ones and placed in less than desirable living arrangements. The capricious nature of judges makes predicting such outcomes almost impossible; some are uplifting and others are heartbreaking but I’ve learned that, regardless of how invested I am in any particular child’s case, it is best to never take any decision personally. This is a piece of advice that was given to me by one of the veteran attorneys at LFC and I believe it to be absolutely imperative to maintaining one’s sanity in such a potentially overwhelming career. Such is a prime example of why interning at a place like LFC is truly an invaluable experience: having the opportunity to apply the sociological ideology I have acquired at Brandeis to real people’s lives has added a human element to my perspective that simply cannot be conveyed in any textbook.
At this juncture in my internship, what I am most proud of is the interpersonal connections that I have made this summer. I feel like my relative similarity in age and background has allowed me to establish common ground and to build a nice rapport with the clients with whom I have worked. I think being able to communicate and build relationships with all kinds of people is a fundamental skill that has been augmented significantly by this experience and one that I will be able to apply to both my future career and academic pursuits.
I can hardly believe the summer is halfway over already. I hope everyone enjoys the month or so we have left and I look forward to reading all about the awesome things everyone else is doing in their blogs.
A. Bray, 2013
From Brandeis to the Big Apple
This summer I am interning at an organization called Lawyers For Children (LFC), a not-for-profit law firm located in the heart of New York City. LFC’s mission is to provide free legal and social work advocacy to children who are in dire need of such services, such as children who have been abused and/or neglected by their parents, children who are in the midst of custody disputes, children who are in the process of finding adoptive homes, as well as a host of other complex issues. One of the unique aspects about LFC that distinguishes it from similar organizations is the staff’s steadfast dedication to empowering the children whom they represent. One such way that this is evidenced is by LFC’s practice of assigning not only an attorney but also a social worker to each and every client of the firm. This comprehensive approach ensures that each child has both someone who can advocate on their behalf in the legal system and also a knowledgeable liaison who is dedicated to making sure that they receive the social services that many of these children so desperately need. With both a lawyer and a social worker fighting to bring their clients’ wishes to fruition, the children whom LFC represents can be sure that their voices truly are being heard.
I first learned of the LFC summer internship program from an email sent out by the Hiatt Career Center in November. After reading about LFC and all of the admirable work that they do, I knew that LFC was the type of organization from which I could learn a great deal so I decided to submit my application. After waiting to hear from them for 3 months I gradually came to the realization that I simply had not been selected for the program. But then in March I got a call from Sue Greenberg at LFC, offering me an interview. The next week I was on a bus to New York City and the rest is history.
As a social work intern at LFC, I have been assigned to a social worker who I will, essentially, shadow this summer. This entails me accompanying my supervisor on home visits as well as court appearances. I will also be responsible for observing client interviews and assisting with the preparation of reports for court. In my capacity as an intern at LFC, I hope to gain a more broad insight into not only the intricacies of the legal system but also the impact that legal decisions can have on actual people’s lives. I am hopeful that attending court proceedings and also participating in the work that goes on outside of court will allow me to learn a great deal about the nexus between the law and real life.
My first week has mostly consisted of orientation events, such as various trainings and social mixers. Everyone at the office seems to be genuinely nice and passionate about their work. I look forward to providing a more detailed update in the coming weeks.
– Aaron Bray ’13