Overall, my time at the New York Attorney General’s office has been nothing short of amazing. I have learned so much and had many new and exciting experiences. One thing that I learned about social justice work, especially in a people-facing role, is the importance of patience. For example, an older women came to our office and I was assigned to help with her intake. I sat down with her and explained what services we provided. She was very unhappy with her situation and talked about how nobody was helping her. She was upset with her credit card company and was extremely skeptical that our office could help her. However, I walked her carefully through what the next steps were. I spent extra time handling her intake and talking to her about the case and also about her children and her job. I saw her slowly start to relax, and by the time the intake was complete she was optimistic. This experience, and many similar ones, taught me that sometimes being a good listener and giving people a little more time makes a world of a difference. It also showed me that you need a lot of patience because a lot of the people coming in are dealing with extremely difficult situations and may be very frustrated.
During my time at the New York Attorney General’s Office, I worked on dozens of mediation cases and I also assisted in legal research and outreach. Since my office was small, I was able to interact with everybody and was able to assist in many different areas. In some of the work I did, I saw an immediate impact. While I can’t give specifics, I saw research turn into legal memos and subpoenas. It felt good knowing the work I was doing was respected in my office. One thing that I wish I had known when I started my internship was how long cases take to resolve. I thought I would close out a few cases a week, but the reality of the process made resulted in only two cases during my internship. I was able to do dozens of intakes, but I didn’t know that for many of those cases I wouldn’t be able to see them all of the way through.
Lastly, if you would like to pursue an internship at the New York Attorney General’s Office, I have a few pieces of advice. Firstly, take advantage of all of the amazing opportunities the Summer Law Internship Program (SLIP) provides. The opportunities include speaker events, networking opportunities, and fun summer activities. Secondly, I would recommend that you work in a small regional office or a small bureau. This way, you can interact with everyone at your office and you will play a more vital role. And finally, if work isn’t coming to you and you don’t know what to do, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisors if they have anything for you to do. Make yourself available and show your office that you are there to help.
One of the most important things that I learned at Brandeis was to take every opportunity presented to you because you never know where it may lead. During my sophomore year, I had a class called Immigration and Human Rights with Professor Doug Smith. In this class, we learned about immigration systems and practices in the United States and around the world; the international treaties and institutions affecting migration; and the history of immigration policy and rhetoric in the United States. Over the course of the semester, I became more and more interested in immigration law. During one class session, two Brandeis students came in to discuss a new club they were forming and asked if anyone in the class wanted to join. My first thought was that I was too busy and had many other commitments. However, I thought about it and decided to go to the first club meeting.
After that first meeting, I went to every subsequent meeting of the club, which is called The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII). TRII helps immigrants navigate legal issues through consultation, workshops and legal representation. In this club, I am being trained to represent asylum seekers and non-citizens through immigration proceedings. I host drop-in hours every week where I help with client intakes and assist clients through every step of the immigration process. In addition, I am now on the E-Board serving as the community relations director. In this role, I help publicize TRII and help it reach a wider audience. My passion for immigration work and helping people who have limited resources is what led me to the New York State Attorney General’s Office internship and I think is part of what made my application stand out. Overall, taking advantage of the opportunities you are presented with is something that I learned at Brandeis and will continue to practice throughout my life.
At the New York State Attorney General’s Office, one thing that I continue to notice is that opportunity is not always available to many of the people that we serve. This is why it makes it even more important to try and help these people using all the tools the NYAGs office has to offer. For me, it is an opportunity to help people in need and it is also one of the few opportunities our constituents have to solve some of their most pressing problems. I am a mediator, which means I try to make both parties involved in a conflict come to an agreement. I treat every case like it is the constituents’ last chance to solve their problem. This approach helps not only the people I serve but helps me better develop the useful skills needed in negotiations and the mediation process in general.
I am currently interning for the New York State Attorney General (NYAG) at the Harlem Regional Office. As a Legal Studies minor on the Pre-Law track, I chose to work at NYAG to learn more about public interest law. The New York State Attorney General’s Office’s mission is to serve as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens of New York, its organizations, and its natural resources. The attorney general is the “people’s lawyer” and the state’s chief legal officer. The current officeholder is Attorney General Letitia James. The office consists of 650 assistant attorneys general and over 1,700 employees that serve in various locations across New York State. With only two attorneys, the Harlem Regional Office is one of the smallest. However, its size does not stop it from handling hundreds of complaints a year and litigating high profile class action lawsuits. Another plus of the office is the great view!
At the Harlem Regional Office, my job is to help some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers in two distinct ways. The first role I help with is mediation. Mediation occurs when a consumer comes in with a complaint about a business or a landlord and my role is to try to resolve the case. Each case is different and provides me with new experiences. One example of a complaint the office deals with frequently is landlords not returning security deposits. I get to interact with New Yorkers and learn about different areas of discrimination and the many ways that fraud can occur. The second part of my work at the NYAG is to help conduct research for the two staff attorneys. The research I do is confidential, but what I can say is that the work I do helps the lawyers investigate and prosecute alleged patterns of unlawful discrimination and fraud in a variety of areas, including employment, housing, credit, education, and places of public accommodation. Any research I do, no matter how inconsequential I think it is, helps the lawyers with their lawsuits and ultimately leads to the people of New York feeling safer.
Another exciting part of my internships is the speaker series the NYAG puts on. So far, I have had the opportunity to hear from Orelia Merchant, Chief Deputy Attorney General for the Division of State Counsel; Judge Alison Nathan, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; and former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams. I was also able to hear the inspiring remarks from the New York Attorney General Letitia James when she introduced Judge Alison Nathan! (see photos). Each of these speakers has provided new insights and perspectives about public interest law. Overall, I am excited to continue learning and experiencing new and exciting things at the NYAGs office. I am looking forward to the upcoming speaker series and going to court with one of the lawyers!