Summer Associate Program at Kaufman & Canoles, P.C.

BennyBy Benny Zhang, Class of 2020

One of the perennial questions law students confront during their brief tenure in law school is how to make use of our degrees. Does one seek to be a corporate lawyer, or rather a public defender or prosecutor? This is often amplified for first-year law students with the Office of Career Services’ proactive and mandatory career sessions early on in our first semester. While some of us begin law school knowing with upmost certainty our specific career path, most of us strive to explore many options in hopes of finding an answer. Working as a summer associate is just one of these opportunities for students to find their path. This past summer, I worked as a 1L summer associate with Kaufman & Canoles, P.C in its Williamsburg branch.

What is a Summer Associate?

Summer associate programs offer a survey into legal practice at a particular firm. Typically offered to 1Ls and 2Ls, summer associates are paid positions that expose you to a firm’s workplace culture and it’s legal practice. The pay varies among firms, but is similar to market rate for an associate’s salary. More significantly, it is an opportunity for both you the student and the firm to assess a good fit. According to my branch’s managing partner, “[I]t is typical for a firm to take upwards of two or three years to train newly hire associates.” Following this logic, summer associates who are offered a position have already begun their training with the law firm.

The Kaufman & Canoles, P.C. summer associate program typically lasts for eight weeks in one of several branches; though I worked solely in the Williamsburg branch, my classmate worked in both the Norfolk and Newport News offices. I also benefited from two assigned mentors,  Dustin DeVore, a hard-charging former Marine, and Erin Deal Johnson, a perennial workhorse. At Kaufman & Canoles, these mentors are most usually a partner and an associate.

Equally important to the experience is the exposure to the idea of work-life balance; I quickly learned that the KaufCan life is not a typical 9-5 job. On any given Sunday afternoon, a panicked corporate client may send an email and expect an immediate answer. One of my mentors regularly worked until 9:00 PM most weeknights. Virginia state Senator Thomas Norment is still active in his legal practice at Kaufman & Canoles, and I often joined him working on the weekends. Despite the time and energy we devote to our elected duties on the weekdays, the legal work must still be accomplished. [Read more…]

Working in the Public Sector

H LittlefieldBy Hannah Littlefield, Class of 2019

I had the privilege to work at the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia this past summer. Interning for the Legal Aid Society was a very enriching experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from the hard-working and dedicated staff attorneys, but I also had the honor of helping low-income Virginians with a variety of free legal services. On my first day, the managing attorney inquired about my areas of interests and within an hour, I was working on a case dealing with a child custody dispute between a same-sex couple. On my second day, I was already meeting with a client and learning so much about the legal process.

From day one at Legal Aid, I was doing a variety of legal tasks, and I loved every minute. One of the most rewarding experiences was having the opportunity to see my work, and the work of the staff attorneys, help people in need. Cases are continuously being assigned to the staff attorneys, and sometimes within a week or two, an attorney is already in court representing the client. After helping one of the staff attorney’s put together a client’s trial binder, I was able to observe the client’s court proceedings in Family Court. During the span of one day, I observed the testimony of both sides, attended the private conference between the attorneys, joined the Guardian Ad Litem’s meeting with the children, and witnessed the judge enter a temporary restraining order. It was truly rewarding to see how Legal Aid was able to help a mother fight for the custody of her children and obtain a protective order against her abuser.

I also had the opportunity to research a wide range of legal issues for the staff attorneys, including child custody disputes between biological and non-biological parents, consumer rights, and housing authority disputes. I assisted the Equal Justice Works Fellow with automobile fraud and consumer protection advocacy by analyzing how Virginia courts have defined deceptive acts and practices, and by outlining the possible avenues for filing a claim under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. I frequently interacted with clients, prepared advanced medical directives, simple wills, and divorce complaints; drafted memoranda; prepared trial binders; and presented my research findings to the staff attorneys. I also participated in a domestic violence meeting where staff attorneys from every office brainstormed strategies to help more victims of domestic violence obtain and keep protective orders.

One of the greatest aspects about interning with Legal Aid was learning something new every day, working with the staff attorneys on an array of issues, and helping people in need. The staff at Legal Aid never ceased to amaze me, and the work they do in the community is truly inspiring. This experience solidified my commitment to work with individuals and communities living in poverty. I always knew I wanted to work in the public sector, and after interning with Legal Aid, I cannot imagine working in any other field. I cannot thank Legal Aid enough for providing me with invaluable, hands-on experience.