Learning What It Means to be an Advocate

Students Discuss the Wide-Ranging Impact of their Summer Jobs

Law School Building

 

When Law School students dive into their summer jobs, they are doing more than applying their classroom knowledge to legal issues in the real world—they are often also building relationships with mentors, immersing themselves in a new area of the law, learning what it means to be advocate, and much more.

This past summer, Law School students interned with Grubhub’s in-house counsel, represented clients with a student practice license, and worked to reform the Chicago Police Department. They tackled pro bono cases in a law firm setting, explored the intersection of technology and litigation, and interpreted contracts for the US Attorney’s Office in Dallas, TX. Through varied opportunities like these, the Classes of 2020 and 2021 gained invaluable hands-on experience, sharpened their skills, and formed lasting connections along the way.  

Before autumn quarter began, we asked a handful of second- and third-year students about what they learned, how the Law School prepared them, and what surprised them most about their summer jobs.

Divine Collins
Divine Collins

Divine Collins, ‘21

Where did you work this summer, and what did you do there?
This summer I worked for the City of Chicago Department of Law, Public Safety Reform division. In this position, I was a part of a team that micromanaged the requests of the consent decree which worked to reform the Chicago Police Department.

What drew you to this opportunity? 
I was drawn to this opportunity through a program called the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program. The program offered me the opportunity to work in a public interest position for my 1L summer, and secured me a firm position for my 2L summer. The position was also of particular interest to me because of the daunting task of reforming such a vital department to the Chicago community. 

What did you learn about yourself or the area in which you worked? 
My position with the Department of Law taught me that, although the attorneys in the department represent the city, the attorneys also work to protect the interest of the citizens of Chicago. The purpose of the Public Safety Reform division is to actively assist with the reformation of the Chicago Police Department so that they can better protect those within the city limits.

How did the Law School help prepare you?
The Law school was helpful with teaching me how to conduct legal research and write legal memos. I wrote a couple of extensive memos that required weeks of legal research, and it worked to my benefit to have my closed memo as a guide on how to structure the memos required of me during my internship. 

What surprised you most about your experience?
I was most surprised with how intertwined the City of Chicago Department of Law divisions were with other private law firms and other city departments. A lot of the different entities work in tandem in order to do their work adequately. 

Paola Correia
Paola Correia

Paola Correia, ‘21

Where did you work this summer, and what did you do there? 
I interned with Grubhub’s in-house legal department in the Chicago headquarters. Grubhub is a publicly-traded company that connects diners with local takeout restaurants through its online food ordering and delivery marketplace. Working with attorneys in the New York and Chicago office, I advised on the legal liabilities and risks associated with company policies and partnership agreements. I also conducted due diligence regarding compliance with data and privacy requirements.

What drew you to this opportunity?  

I wanted to understand the inner-workings of in-house counsel before working at a law firm. Working with in-house counsel at a company like Grubhub promised legal exposure to the corporate world and practical insight into transactional work. Additionally, I was particularly interested in the evolving challenges and regulations facing on-demand companies within the tech space.

What did you learn about yourself or the area in which you worked?  
Grubhub helped me hone in on my business judgement and apply it to legal matters. Working with talented attorneys and professionals in other departments, like marketing and product development, gave me an invaluable perspective on the demands of in-house and of potential clients. Meeting the needs of the business and incorporating innovative ideas requires strategically dealing with many moving parts.

How did the Law School help prepare you? 
I quickly realized that resourceful and creative lawyering is at the crux of satisfying legal issues. Professors and the research resources available to us, like the D’Angelo law librarians, are fundamental to teaching us how to approach a new issue by learning how to ask the right questions.

What surprised you most about your experience?
Since Gruhbhub was my first legal work experience, I was unsure how much I would be able to contribute substantively. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to dive in and take ownership of projects and ideas. People cared about my work-product and provided helpful feedback along the way. 

Parag Dharmavarapu
Parag Dharmavarapu

Parag Dharmavarapu, ‘20

Where did you work this summer, and what did you do there?
I worked at Latham & Watkins in the firm’s Washington, DC office. I got to work on a range of projects, but my work mainly focused on appellate, white collar, commercial litigation, and antitrust matters. My assignments, like most firm work for summer associates, focused on discrete research questions for junior and mid-level associates. For instance, one pro bono matter I worked on with an appellate associate involved analyzing one of our client's many claims in a section 1983 suit for an inventory search and seizure of her car. 

What drew you to this opportunity? 
I'm interested in becoming an Assistant US Attorney in the future, and US Attorney's Offices really value experience at a Big Law firm. At Latham this summer, I developed and honed in on a lot of the research, writing, and analytical skills that I think will make me a successful prosecutor. I plan on going back to Latham next year before clerking to build on those skills. Latham also encourages its associates to take on opportunities at the Department of Justice and provides them with connections, which was something I particularly valued when I was doing my firm search last year. 

What did you learn about yourself or the area in which you worked? 
My experience reaffirmed my interest in criminal and appellate work. I loved all the criminal and white collar matters that I got to work on, but I also appreciated that Latham's summer program allowed me to explore different practice areas to help narrow down and focus that interest. I also realized that mentorship and guidance are really important to me, particularly at the beginning stages of an assignment. I was really happy that the associates I worked with at Latham were so willing to help. 

How did the Law School help prepare you? 
I think the Law School prepared me best with its academic and analytical approach to the law. Part of the difficulty with some of these litigation projects, particularly the ones that summer associates get, is that they involve very niche legal questions, and you often do not have a lot of helpful precedent on your side. My 2L classes, which focused heavily on litigation-oriented, doctrinal coursework, helped frame how I should go about tackling these often difficult legal questions in a structured and thoughtful way. 

What surprised you most about your experience?
I was actually surprised that I got to work on so many pro bono matters. I think I ended up spending 40 to 50 percent of my time on pro bono work, which I really valued considering my interest in public service. I also appreciated that Latham respected my Law Review work—which was substantial at some points during the summer—and gave summer associates plenty of time to explore the city and enjoy the summer.  

Robert Dunteman
Robert Dunteman

Robert Dunteman, ‘20

Where did you work this summer, and what did you do there?
I split my summer between two different law firms. For the first part of the summer, I worked at Fish & Richardson in its patent litigation practice. At Fish, I drafted legal memoranda and a trial motion in many patent litigation cases. Creating these documents also involved extensive legal research. For the second part of the summer, I worked at Foley & Lardner. At Foley, I drafted a patent application and an office action response to the US Patent & Trademark Office, and prepared legal memoranda related to patent litigation and patent prosecution.

What drew you to this opportunity?
I have an academic background in engineering and worked in the petrochemical industry before law school. Working in patent law at both firms allowed me to leverage my skills and interests in technology to the legal profession. In law school, I have also enjoyed classes related to litigation. My background and experiences at the Law School make patent litigation a natural fit.

What did you learn about yourself or the area in which you worked?
I learned about the importance of recognizing the potential positive outcomes for the client and making those the priority of my work. In law school, I only have to worry about mastering the legal issues. But in a law firm where the work comes from clients, the business, team, and strategic aspects of the case are all related. Understanding how the legal issues I worked on fit into the client’s goals helped me focus on the most valuable work. In other words, l learned what it means to be an advocate.

How did the Law School help prepare you?
My experiences were great, in part, because I worked on challenging cases with important and nuanced legal issues. Similarly, the Law School pushes me every day to engage with difficult legal issues and analyze various arguments on each side of the issue. Because of the Law School’s commitment to pushing its students to engage complicated legal issues, I felt comfortable engaging difficult problems this summer. This helped me approach questions that have uncertain answers.

What surprised you most about your experience?
I was surprised by how little I knew about a given area of the law when I was assigned a project. At the same time, I was equally surprised by how quickly I learned the relevant law and applied it. Many of the issues I worked on did not have clear outcomes. It was rewarding to work in areas of the law that are constantly being shaped by advocacy and excellent lawyering. Relatedly, the importance of the attorneys’ collective knowledge at both firms surprised me— it is something that I value as I look toward starting my legal career.

Nyle Hussain
Nyle Hussain

Nyle Hussain, ‘21

Where did you work this summer, and what did you do there?
I worked at the US Attorney’s Office in Dallas, TX (USAO – NDTX). As interns, we had the opportunity to work on projects from any division: appellate, civil, and criminal. My first assignment was to write a memo for the Chief of the Appellate Division about whether the USAO could prosecute state-level robberies as federal crimes under the Travel Act. For my last assignment, I researched whether dental clinics offering cash payments to Medicaid patients in order to entice them to get treatment violated the Anti-Kickback Statute. By the end of the summer, I had completed projects in every division.

What drew you to this opportunity? 
I was interested in working in a prosecutor’s office because after undergrad I had interned at the district attorney’s office in Dallas. Although I wasn’t qualified to handle any of the legal work, the trials I saw there were very exciting. Now, having some measure of qualification—and a glimpse of what state prosecutors did—I wanted to intern at a federal prosecutor’s office. The Dallas office was a natural fit because I grew up there and love going back whenever I can.

What did you learn about yourself or the area in which you worked? 
I learned that I didn’t like certain aspects of litigation. Specifically, when conducting research in Westlaw or LexisNexis, I didn’t know when I should stop. The deep dives into research could go on for days, but by the end, I still wasn’t sure if it was thorough enough. 

For one assignment, I had to read and interpret a clause in a contract between a wholesaler and retailer to figure out whether the wholesaler was entitled to the assets that the government had seized from the retailer. This contract interpretation piqued my interest in transactional legal work.

How did the Law School help prepare you? 
The skills I learned in our Bigelow section proved to be crucial. Legal research and writing is the bread and butter of litigators. As an intern, the vast majority of what I did required knowing how to search for cases in Westlaw or LexisNexis. Additionally, because I knew how to write legal memos, the attorneys I worked with appreciated my work product. The Law School did a great job preparing me to effectively communicate through legal writing. 

What surprised you most about your experience?
The opportunities that the interns had to socialize with one another was definitely the most surprising and the most welcome part. From field trips to the shooting range to chatting at our desks in our down time, I got plenty of opportunities to build friendships with other law students from around the country. Older students had told me that the 1L internship (and 2L internship, for that matter) was a lot of fun, but I didn’t know why. Now I know: the people you work with make the experience enjoyable. 

Beth Macnab
Beth Macnab

Beth Macnab, ‘20

Where did you work this summer, and what did you do there?
This summer, I worked at the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender in Colorado Springs. My courthouse was located in a tiny town where wild donkeys roamed (pictured above) and sometimes brayed so loudly that court would go into a brief recess. After an intensive training program, I was given about 20-30 misdemeanor cases at any given point. Under Colorado’s student practice license, I wrote and argued suppression motions, restitution hearings, and even first-chair four jury trials resulting in two not guilty verdicts. 

What drew you to this opportunity? 
Colorado’s state system offers great training for students interested in public defense. I was drawn to the program for the ability to stand up in court after receiving the proper training. The culture of the program also drew me to Colorado, as the lawyers in the system have a reputation for being incredibly passionate about their work and their clients. 

What did you learn about yourself or the area in which you worked? 
Apart from the many trial skills I gained over the summer, the program taught me so much about resiliency and compassion in the legal field. Public service work can often result in compassion fatigue, but the office’s support system and the incredibly talented and compassionate intern class taught me lessons in setting boundaries with clients while still being an effective advocate. 

How did the Law School help prepare you? 
The criminal procedure and evidence classes coupled with my experience in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic gave me the confidence and ability to adjust quickly to the steep learning curve. I was also very appreciative of my public interest professional responsibility class with Lynda Peters, whose practical applications of the Rules of Professional Responsibility informed my experience this summer. I was able to use these experiences as a foundation to build on while working this summer. 

What surprised you most about your experience?
I was surprised by the number of non-criminal legal subjects that came up in the work. I learned that good advocacy is creative and relies on both extralegal solutions and non-criminal legal solutions. For this reason, I appreciated the breadth of classes I had taken at the Law School when approaching more complex cases and will continue to explore a variety of classes in my last year.

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