Internships, Externships, Careers, Oh My!

Lowell_Brooke EDespite Williamsburg’s moderate geographic size, there are tons of opportunities to find internships and externships in the area. Even better, the easy drive to Richmond, Norfolk, and even Washington, D.C. significantly expands the firms, organizations, and government programs that students have the chance to work with while in law school!

At William & Mary, an internship usually takes place over the summer, and doesn’t count towards academic credit. It can be paid or unpaid depending on the field you choose to work in, and provides invaluable experience into the day to day operations in the legal field. An externship on the other hand can take place over the summer or during the school year for academic credit. Regardless of your decision to participate in one or the other, the Office of Career Services and the Externships and Public Service Office have a wealth of information to help you land the experience you want!

For summer internships, the possibilities are endless. The Office of Career Services (OCS) has amazing resources to help you find experiences that fit your unique career goals and helps to advertise those that may come directly from firms. I had friends all over the country and internationally working at different firms and governmental organizations. One worked in prisoner legal services in North Carolina; one clerked for a judge in New Jersey; and one stayed close in Norfolk at the Public Defender’s Office. I even have a friend who will be in California working for Earth Justice this summer!

For those who choose to work in the public service sector for their summer experiences, there is an opportunity to apply for funding to help cover costs of living through W&M’s Public Service Fund! Keep in mind the timeline for finding these internships varies from person to person. Many 2Ls find their internships over the summer or early in the fall; 1Ls tend to be late winter and early spring. My 2L internship is at a small firm in New York; I was able to interview with them when they came to campus. OCS plans recruiting opportunities like that all throughout the summer and fall!

Externships usually take place throughout the academic year and range from 1-3 credits. Last fall I externed for the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. It was an amazing opportunity to work closely with low-income clients; I usually focused on work for divorces, child custody, and drafting wills. Legal Aid is just a ten minute walk from campus so it was an easy and quick commute. Many of the adjunct professors here at W&M Law are practitioners in the area, which is how I got my externship. There are other externship opportunities in the area with small firms, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and the Attorney General’s Office.

OCS sends out a weekly Tuesday email to inform all the students what the “hot jobs” are that week. Everyone is supported during their job searches. While I was here over the summer researching, I went to my OCS Dean’s office almost every week and he always welcomed me with open arms. William & Mary’s OCS office is incredible, and the deans are there for you every step of the way to help you find your internships and externships.

Brooke Lowell is a 2L from Rockland, Maine. She attended Simmons College and earned her degree in Political Science in 2017. Brooke is currently a member of the Public Service Fund and serves as the Vice President for Equity Alliance. She also works as a member of the Bill of Rights Journal staff. Last summer, she served as a graduate research assistant for Professor Evan Criddle at William & Mary Law School and will continue to work at the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia as her externship for the year.

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.