I think I have learned a lot during this internship. I was able to talk with other attorneys and law students about their experiences which provided me a better understanding of what I want to do in the future. The attorney I am primarily working with provided me with a lot of mentorship and advice about law school; I have decided that I want to take a year off between undergrad and law school.
My experience this summer also helped solidify my desire to work in public interest law which I was debating prior to this internship. It was really inspiring to hear and just be around the passion within the law firm in trying to create a more equitable world. I never felt as though the work I was doing did not matter and I was able to see direct results from what I was working on. It was reassuring to see that my mentor was able explore other interests while practicing such as going to pastry school and was open to taking breaks from practicing law to contribute more time to other interests. I found that really inspiring because going to law school and practicing law felt like such a looming decision but hearing his story made me realize that I have more flexibility than I initially thought.
I am so thankful for how much work I was able to do with client interaction by myself. I completed approximately three DACA renewal applications every week and worked on side projects along the way, meeting different clients throughout. I felt more eager to work at the Legal Aid Society because I knew the impact we were making on people’s lives – it kept me motivated and focused to try and get the best possible outcome. I think I have a much better grasp of what it means to be an immigration attorney working in a non-profit law firm, and it is definitely something I see myself doing in the future. I would love to be able to work at the Legal Aid Society in the future and I have decided to continue my internship into the fall semester.
The advice I would give to students who are interested in an internship at the Legal Aid Society or another non-profit law firm is to take advantage of being in that space. Ask the attorneys about their journey to the Legal Aid Society. You can learn so much from hearing other people’s stories and make new discoveries about what you want to do based on that. More likely than not people at the organization would be happy to give advice. It is also important to show initiative and interest in the work you are doing. For example, if you are really interested in working on a certain type of case, let your supervisor know. If your internship allows you to, I would also encourage you to have more meetings with clients. Meetings with different clients is such an invaluable experience. Your interpersonal skills grow and it teaches you how to be more empathetic and how to create a safe environment that allows others to speak freely.
I strongly encourage anyone interested in the Legal Aid Society or working in public interest law to seek an internship. The network and experience you build from internships can bring so much more clarity.
I have been enjoying my internship so far, my involvement and the tasks I am given were beyond what I expected. I thought I would be doing more administrative tasks during the internship, which I have but I have been given a lot of opportunities to work with clients one on one, which I have been enjoying. I remember one day I helped a couple prepare for their marriage green card interview. The whole process took around five hours; I interviewed each person individually and then went over any inconsistencies afterward, which meant I spent most of my work day talking with the clients.
The environment at the Legal Aid Society is a bit more relaxed too which I enjoy. Initially, I was very nervous that the work environment would feel pretty stiff especially since we are located in this big building right in the financial district of NYC but all the attorneys and staff have been so nice and welcoming. We had an Immigration Unit summer outing recently at Clinton
Hall which was a lot of fun! I was able to meet a lot of new people including some of the other interns who I have not met in person before. A lot of the other interns are in law school and so I was able to hear a lot of stories about the professors they’ve had and their experiences.
Work feels a lot more different from university life; because of the work I am doing now I can see how it makes a direct impact on our clients. In university the work I do solely impacts myself but at work, my work can impact a lot of other people which can be both exciting and terrifying. I think this excitement and fear keep me motivated and enure that I pay
extra attention to avoid making as many mistakes as possible. At university, I work to receive good grades and at the Legal Aid Society, I work to get people’s legal status so it feels very different. Immigration law also changes pretty quickly so there is a lot of collaboration and emails sent in the Immigration Unit about new court decisions that can potentially impact cases. Now DACA is being heard again soon in court so there is more urgency to renew our clients’ DACA applications as soon as possible. I have also been reaching out to clients to see if they are open to sharing their stories to help the Legal Aid Society add more pressure and advocate for DACA.
Over the course of this internship, I have been building my interpersonal skills lot. I work with a lot of different clients every week, just this week I have had meetings with five different clients where I try to create a comfortable environment as I went over and finalized their DACA renewal applications and answered any questions they had. This internship has also made me more comfortable with having language barriers where I try to form a comfortable relationship with clients and communicate as effectively as possible. The skills I foster here will definitely help me in my future pursuits in becoming an immigration attorney.
Hello, my name is Norah Khadraoui I am a rising junior majoring in Sociology and I am interning at the Legal Aid Society. The Legal Aid Society is one of the largest social justice law firms in New York City. The organization’s mission centers around the idea that no person should be denied the right to equal justice. The Legal Aid Society has specific teams that practice nearly every area of law that can impact New Yorkers and I am working in their Immigration Law Unit.
The Immigration Law Unit was created to provide urgent legal services to assist low-income immigrants to obtain lawful status, reunify families, apply for citizenship, and defend against deportation. Within the Immigration Law Unit, they have four current projects. The federal project uses litigation to ensure immigrants are able to get fair hearings in immigration court. The youth project has provided free, comprehensive screenings, advice and direct representation to undocumented immigrant
youth and unaccompanied minors in New York. The removal defense project represents immigrants in removal proceedings. The criminal immigration specialists support attorneys in the Criminal Defense Practice, advising them on the impact of criminal prosecutions on non-citizen clients.
I have been floating between the various projects as well as assisting my supervising attorney in whatever he needs. For example, for the youth project, I participated in a screening event where I screened migrant minors to help determine what relief they were eligible for. This experience was really exciting and a little scary. My internship is mostly remote but I was able to come in person to conduct the interviews and I learned how to work with interpreters during an interview. It was also the first time I had screened potential clients by myself. After I finished speaking with the clients I discussed the information I gathered with my supervisor and then together we would talk to the client about possible next steps.
Besides screening, I became responsible for DACA renewals. I have been managing the DACA email, filling out client forms, and reviewing the forms with the clients before sending them to my supervisor for his review before they are submitted. I am really happy I am able to help a lot with DACA renewals, especially with the ongoing lawsuits with DACA it is very urgent to renew everyone’s DACA status.
One of my academic goals this summer to learn more about a realistic experience of what it is like working as an immigration attorney in a non-profit organization. I want to be able to determine if I would be able to handle and enjoy the workload and everything that comes with it. I also want to network with other attorneys working at the Legal Aid Society because I am interested in pursuing a legal career at a non-profit organization in New York. Another one of my goals for the summer is to become more familiar with different areas of immigration law. Prior to this internship I worked primarily in asylum law. During my internship, I have been able to work on various types of casework with my mentor including DACA, naturalization, and applying for work permits. I hope to be able to also work on Special Immigrant Juveniles and U-Visa cases soon!