Abby is a 2L from Adams, Tennessee. She went to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where I got a B.A. in English and a B.S. in Political Science: International and Comparative Studies. At William & Mary, Abby am a member of the Environmental Law & Policy Review and am secretary of the International Law Society.
My externship at Global Flight Relief, the non-profit humanitarian arm of a private aviation corporation, was valuable to my legal career in surprising ways. What I expected was a semester during which I would build on the legal skills I had developed during my first year at William & Mary and at my legal internship over the summer. I thought I would hone my skillset in an area that interested me (non-profit work in developing countries). I figured I would learn something about planes. It only took a few hours the first day of work to know that I was going to get much more than I originally anticipated.
An externship allows students the opportunity to work in legal settings for academic credit during the fall or spring semester. For me, this meant that once a week I would lift my nose from my textbooks, trade classroom casual for business casual, and head into the real world instead of Evidence class. The first day this happened, I honestly was a little terrified. Rightfully so, as it turns out – within my first few hours I had a crash course in business associations, non-profit law, and tax law, none of which I had ever taken in school before. People had always told me that law school doesn’t teach you all aspects of the law, but rather how to think like a lawyer. You learn how to analyze and work through problems because you won’t always know the answers right off the bat. It’s almost like getting tossed in a pool, and in sink or swim situations like my first day of work at Global Flight Relief, I was infinitely grateful that my William & Mary professors had prepared me to swim.
Over the next few months, my way of thinking about non-profit organizations entirely changed. I began to understand the extent that the Internal Revenue Code dictates a non-profit organization’s formation and activities. Beyond the fundamentals, I encountered very practical issues that humanitarian actors working in foreign countries face constantly. How does an aviation non-profit carry on its humanitarian missions when there is an outbreak of Ebola? What legal and healthcare structures must it interact with? What laws will affect payment requirements in an airline hangar contract with Tanzania?
The things that surprised me the most, however, were the things I learned about myself (a visit from a delegation from Turkey was a close second). I learned that I absolutely love contract drafting. I learned that I can effectively research business structures, even though I am not at all business-savvy. I also learned what I’m not so great at – I can report well in writing, but verbally summarizing my findings to my supervisor was something that was more difficult for me. Fortunately, I now have a year and a half to improve before I’m tossed into the job market.
In sum, the externship was a great variety of learning experiences. While not all law students choose to extern, I found it to be a formative part of my legal education. I not only learned about the law, but about myself as a future lawyer as well.
And yes, I did learn a little about planes in the process.