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Interns reflect on their summer at the Public Justice Center

August 27, 2014: This summer, we hosted five interns who worked as law clerks, helped with fundraising, and provided administrative support. We asked them to share their thoughts about their experience.

Marybeth Irons, University of Baltimore School of Law
Law Clerk, Workplace Justice Project
 
My summer at the PJC has been exactly the learning experience I was hoping for.  Through my work over the last couple of months, I have participated in the various aspects of lawyering that together comprise what I now understand to be advocacy.  From coalition meetings to litigation strategies, I leave here with the ability to think on a different level about the advocacy I want to dedicate my own career to.
 
One of the most exciting parts of my summer at the PJC has been attending coalition meetings.  I have always heard talk of coalitions in the news: their lobbying efforts, outreach, or fundraising.  But I didn’t have a clear picture of the process of coalition-building and what that really means. Witnessing in person these coalitions of people and organizations that work together to create change in Maryland has been both valuable and transformative for me.
 
I am one of those wide-eyed idealists who chose to go to law school because I thought that getting a little power in this world would help me be a strong agent for change. While it can be difficult to maintain that vision while studying for exams in Civil Procedure and Contracts, coming to work at the PJC has reinforced my drive to be an advocate and to make my contribution to Baltimore.
 
I have had the chance to watch like-minded people, from organizations with different missions but focused on the same goal of raising up all of our citizens, come together to strategize on legislative campaigns. I now have a deeper understanding of the machinations of legislative advocacy, as well as the mind sets of the advocates who participate in the political process. I know that in my career I will be constantly referring to the tools I got at the PJC this summer, as well as the inspiration I felt when I got be a part of these meetings.
 
My supervisors care about training a new ally to join the fight, and they made sure that I was able to see as many different aspects of this life as possible. I am so grateful that this was my first legal internship, and so proud that I can now count myself as a member of the public interest community in Baltimore.
 
Mark O’Halloran, University of Maryland School of Law and University of Maryland School of Public Policy 
Law Clerk, Human Right to Housing
 
After graduating college, I spent time working on several political campaigns and serving as an AmeriCorps member. I greatly valued these experiences, but I felt that neither provided me an opportunity to have the type of meaningful impact that I hoped to have in my career. I felt that if I wanted to have a career helping others, I was forced to make a choice that I didn’t want to make: either I could have a large impact on the lives of a few people or I could have a small impact on the lives of many people. 
 
I decided to go to law school because I wanted to have a career where I could have a real measurable impact in the lives of individuals and at the same time combat social inequality on a systemic level. My time at PJC has been an affirmation of my decision to become a lawyer. I have worked with individual tenants who are facing the specter of eviction and I have worked on legislation aimed at reducing Source of Income Discrimination in housing for Baltimore City. Being able to leave work at the end of the day knowing that I made a significant impact in someone’s life while also knowing that my work is targeted at the root of injustice in our society has been a truly validating experience for me.
 
Sejal Jhaveri, University of Virginia School of Law  
Law Clerk, Education Stability Project
 
My summer experience at the Public Justice Center has given me the opportunity to work in a city I am passionate about and on an issue area that I have experience in.  As a former Baltimore City Schools teacher, I have firsthand experience with the inequities in the education system.  This summer, I’ve been given the opportunity to work in the Education Stability Project and address some of those inequities.  As a teacher, I saw the struggles that many of my homeless students faced but I was unable to advocate for changes on a broader scale. Working at the PJC has allowed me to work on both litigation and advocacy that will hopefully, directly affect these students in a positive way. On a more personal level, working at the PJC is an opportunity to grow as a developing lawyer and to get the experience of working with smart, passionate people who are committed to making Baltimore City, and Maryland as a whole, a better place for everyone.    
 
Julia Leff, Columbia University
Intern, Administration
 
I came into my summer internship at the PJC ready to help with any and all administrative tasks needed to be done. I was hopeful that my work in the background would ease the work of everyone in the office and allow them to concentrate on their long-term goals. I hoped to take the pressure off by helping scan, copy, file, enter data and answer phones. In short, I expected to be the person giving the help and while I was able to keep up with my responsibilities, I was extremely grateful for how much help I ended up receiving at the PJC. I was told over and over, "If you have any questions, just ask!" Everyone in the office patiently explained to me the most basic tasks (how to refill the printer) to the most complex (how to compile a record extract for an appellate project). On one of my last days, when I was given the task of showing PJC's new paralegal how to manage the phones I tried my best to teach the way I was taught - with patience, examples and room for any questions. I surely hope that I've been a small part of helping the PJC achieve some of its phenomenal work this summer, but I'm certain that the PJC has taught me countless lessons that I'll take with me wherever I'm headed next.
 
Teara Booker, University of Baltimore
Sondheim Fellow, Development
 
My internship with the Public Justice Center (PJC) has provided me with combined practical experience in the areas of nonprofit management and systemic legal advocacy. While interning with the PJC, I observed the Executive Director lead and supervise people effectively within a transparent, morally sound nonprofit organization. The PJC is definitely a mission-driven organization that focuses on systemic change for people who live in poverty. I witnessed the staff attorneys as they partnered with coalitions, worked directly with people, and help those within diverse communities to confront the laws, practices, and institutions that cause injustice, poverty, and discrimination to those less fortunate. 
 
As a result of my internship, I have a greater understanding of the concepts, systems, and skills of public interest law and lawyers. I had the opportunity to attend four brown bag lunch seminars/workshops. These focused on helping public interest attorneys survive after law school. It has been a vision of mine to advocate and help people as an attorney. I have fluctuated back and forth because of the loan debt and hard work required with law school. I have a graduate degree and I am currently working on my second master’s degree. I am often asked, “Why more school?” However, as a result of this internship and the mentor relationships I have acquired I know it will be worth the struggle. 
 
The support and mentorship of my internship supervisor has really made the internship experience remarkable. She gave me guidance and support in so many areas. I really appreciate the talks we had and her enthusiasm to share her experiences. The level of responsibility that was assigned was consistent to my ability and even pushed me to excel. Overtime, additional responsibilities were added as my experiences increased with the PJC. When I had questions or concerns someone was always available to talk and help. Some of my goals were challenging and all of them were stimulating. From day one, I was treated on the same level as the other PJC staff. I had a good working relationship with my coworkers. This internship provided me with many learning and enrichment opportunities. I have made some really great relationships in the last 10 weeks and I anticipate nurturing them for a lifetime.
 
 


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