Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis, New York, NY
The opportunity to work in a progressive, civil-justice minded law firm in New York City this summer was an invaluable experience for personal growth, professional development, and civic education. The work felt meaningful and effective, and the office was centrally located in the heart of the city’s financial district. The proximity to City Hall meant that the office had front-row seats to many of the city’s most important summer events like the official LGBTQ Pride ceremony and the USWNT victory parade, an environment that complimented my sense that the office’s work was a crucial part of the city’s just functioning. Because the office was small—the interns outnumbered the attorneys—the projects I was assigned were much more substantive than they might have been at a larger firm of the same type. My assignments tended to alternate between case work, administrative work, and marketing. The most exciting and engaging projects were the case work assignments. I would be asked to do case law research, create explanatory graphics and timelines based on case materials and client testimonies, prepare documents for trial, and interview potential new clients. The longest-term project I worked on was to assist in the discovery production process of a large class action wage-and-hour case. This process took me approximately two weeks, and I learned a lot about the intricacies of legal writing and research, about the difficulties of client interaction and organization, and about the pre-trial process.
The marketing work I did for the office is work experience that will likely be immediately helpful in my post-college job search and placement. I researched and wrote blog posts about contemporary news issues in the civil and employment rights fields almost daily. This work offered experience with corporate-side social media content production, Google Business, and WordPress. At the end of the internship, I received an offer to continue to do this marketing blog work remotely while I am on campus. The rest of the work I did during my internship fell into the organizational/administrative role. While I was there, the office was preparing to move location to a larger suite in a building down the street, which required transferring client data to a more secure and larger-scale software system. I assisted with the mechanics of the transfer, which involved downloading case files from one software and uploading them to another.
The members of the office were friendly and funny, and they promoted an office environment that was approachable and cooperative. The three attorneys were kind and welcoming. I was often moved by moments where clients expressed gratitude for the attorneys’ work—many times clients would say their lives had been changed or saved. The office was very diverse, both among the attorneys and the interns, which made for a very interesting environment. There were frequently discussions about politics and racial conflict in the Middle East, although these conversations never ventured into inappropriate or combative territory. As a political science student, it was particularly fascinating to hear a diverse group of opinions about performances in the first two Democratic primary debates; it occasionally felt like I was observing an organized focus group of party voters.
One of the most valuable benefits with which I will walk away from this summer is an entirely new body of knowledge about labor and employment rights. I had pursued this position primarily to gain experience working in a small law firm, not because of the type of law the office practiced. Before the experience, I had little to no awareness of wage, workers’ rights or discrimination laws. I left the office with eye-opening, and in some cases disheartening, insight into these areas.
As mentioned, my main purpose in pursuing this internship was to get more first-hand experience working in the legal industry in order to determine if law school might be a longer-term goal of mine. Because I intend to work in politics after graduation, I considered this summer one of my last opportunities to work in a law firm before making that decision. The position was helpful in this purpose on multiple fronts. First, it confirmed that pursuing a legal career is an excellent opportunity to effect progressive change in individuals’ lives and in larger institutions. Second, it highlighted some of the difficulties of using the justice system to right emotional or moral wrongs. Third, it helped me to realize that while the legal profession is a path I likely will pursue long term, I would prefer to work in a different area of civil rights law and in a larger firm. Overall, this experience was indispensable in helping me hone my prospective career interests and potential post-grad education goals. I am so grateful to the Estate of Bruce C. Davey and all of the hard-working members of the ’68 Center for Career Exploration that made this opportunity possible.