Summer Internship with People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty

maryby Mary Pickard, Class of 2018

Mary Pickard is a 2L at William & Mary Law School from Detroit, Michigan. Mary graduated from Spelman College majoring in Political Science with a minor in Spanish.  While attending Spelman, Mary interned with the 6th Circuit Court in Oakland County Michigan and served as a Congressional intern for Congressman John Dingell of Michigan.  During her undergraduate studies, Mary served two terms as a member of the Spelman Student Government Association as Secretary of Academic Affairs and President junior and senior year, respectively.  Additionally, Mary was a member of Phi Alpha Delta pre-law society, Pi Sigma Alpha, a Women of Excellence Scholar, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.  While at William & Mary, Mary has been able to explore her passion for corporate, international, and human rights law.  

Entering law school and quickly beginning the job application process can be an overwhelming experience; however, with the assistance of the Office of Career Services (OCS), searching for an internship became much less daunting.  When I began school, I knew I wanted to work within the international sector, whether domestically or abroad.  I have been interested in international law for several years and understood that in order to work in any international sector, international experience was essential.  I explained these goals to my OCS dean, and she was extremely receptive and helpful with writing cover letters, interview preparation, and informing me about various job opportunities.  As I continued my job search, I was excited to learn about the internship opportunities through Professor Warren’s Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, which would afford me the opportunity to work abroad while broadening my legal training.

passopThis summer, I am a legal intern with PASSOP, People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty, a non-profit organization that works to defend, protect, and ensure the rights of all refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in South Africa. The range of services PASSOP offers to its clients is incomparable, and because it is a smaller office, I have been able to gain experience in each legal service we provide.  Although writing appeals for asylum seekers and refugees who have been denied refuge in South Africa is the crux of our work, in the time that I have been in Cape Town, I have participated in settlement negotiations, assisted in drafting contractual agreements, met with the Department of Labour for South Africa, contested appeal decisions from the Department of Home Affairs, and handled a variety of employment and housing discrimination cases on behalf of the government and private employers.  The work at PASSOP is endless and a truly remarkable experience as it allows me to practice the skills from a variety of courses including Legal Practice, Property, and Contracts. Additionally, I am able to study and interpret the South African Constitution, the South African Refugee Act of 1998, and the recent High Court decision affecting the status of current and future refugee permit holders.

Moreover, while in Cape Town I have the chance to meet and bond with other outstanding law students.  My friends and I love exploring Cape Town and discovering all of its beauty.  From the vibrant and welcoming people to the variety of delicious cuisines and natural wonders such as Table and Lion’s Head Mountain, Cape Town has afforded me the opportunity to expand my horizons as a scholar as well as an individual.

Overall, working at PASSOP and in Cape Town has been an enlightening experience, and I am thrilled that I was able to work for an organization that works so diligently and passionately for others. One of the best parts of working with PASSOP has been the level of responsibility I was entrusted with since the attorneys assigned me several ongoing cases in addition to daily appeals from the moment I began.  Ultimately, I felt prepared for the tasks assigned, and I am confident that the instruction at William & Mary assisted heavily in my preparation.