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MLaw Students Shaping Their Futures with Summer Internships

By Jordan Poll
October 12, 2017

Michigan Law encourages its students to seek out opportunities and explore their interests in a variety of legal practice settings outside of the Law School. Which is why, from the private sector, to government, to public interest opportunities, students spend their summers interning all over the world.

“Summer internships are formative experiences that can give students insights across a number of dimensions. For some, they will discover a practice area or new city that they love (or hate); for others it might be their first job in a professional setting,” said Ramji Kaul, ‘05, assistant dean for career planning. “It is also an opportunity to start building mentoring relationships that may last an entire career. We encourage students to be thoughtful about how they spend their summers, but there is no one correct path and the options are nearly infinite.”

Joe Moses travelled to Los Angeles for his 1L summer internship with CBS Television Studios. “There are a handful of really big networks in Los Angeles,” he said. “If you can get in, it is a really great learning experience because you are learning about entertainment law at a really high and broad level.” In addition to helping senior attorneys with research, Moses worked on a variety of contracts, including development, writer, actor, promotion, location, and licensing deals. “Any kind of practice is different than law school, especially when it comes to drafting and redlining real contracts,” he said. “Every business has its own unique system because they are drawing from a reservoir of internal precedent.” Moses also sat in on writers meetings, attended show screenings, and even hobnobbed with the high-powered executives who also happen to be Michigan Law alumni. “Just being a part of a company like CBS, even for a little while, was fantastic. I met a ton of different people who work in the industry and made a lot of connections,” said Moses. “When most people think of entertainment law, an image of Ari Gold from Entourage comes to mind. It is far from that, and it has been great to see what the business is really like on a day-to-day basis.”

Samantha Jaffe split her 2L summer between the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (NDS) and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) in New York City. “I split my summer in order to experience both sides of civil rights work,” she said. While arraigning a misdemeanor case for NDS, Jaffe got her first glimpse of on-the-spot lawyering. “The prosecutor went off script, which isn’t the norm. He didn’t make the offer he was supposed to make, so I kept bothering him until he gave me the offer he should have an hour before,” said Jaffe. “It was awesome because I did it by myself. No one told me to do that. I took initiative in order to get the outcome I wanted.” While her work at NDS allowed her to experience public defense in the direct services contexts, Jaffe described her experience with LDF as being the other side of the coin. “I had to look beyond my client and their immediate problem to the systemic aspect of what puts people in bad situations,” said Jaffe, who authored a memo about class ascertainability, attempting to create a way to certify a class for those who have been strip-searched illegally while visiting Rikers Island. “We can litigate civilly to prevent all that from happening in the first place.” Jaffe started her summer uncertain what area of public defense she wanted to pursue. However, her summer experiences helped her narrow her focus. “I want to pursue being a public defender,” said Jaffe. “The split really confirmed that for me.”

Like Jaffe, Meredith McPhail also is public interest minded. Because of her focus on criminal justice reform and prisoners’ rights, she spent her 1L summer at the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights in New Orleans. “I was really interested in their holistic defense approach,” said McPhail, who worked alongside a civil attorney to facilitate an assessment of the local jail where many of their clients are held. She also worked with a legal Fellow on recent legislation regarding the juvenile life without parole statute. McPhail visited clients, prepared them for upcoming parole hearings, and composed a memo on solitary confinement. “I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be there,” said McPhail. “I enjoyed working on the issues I was involved in this summer, and I learned that I really value client interaction. I hope that I will be able to incorporate those things in my future career.”

With a desire to leverage his language skills, and a genuine curiosity about the Southeast Asia and Greater China regions, Han Zhu spent his 1L summer with SEA Ltd., a start-up gaming company in Singapore. “After spending my summer in Singapore, I am more certain now than ever that it will be one of my top choices for working in the future,” he said. Zhu spent his summer bouncing between research projects, such as studying custom laws in different Southeast Asia countries, and reviewing a variety of contracts, including service agreements, leases, and share purchase agreements. “It's very interesting to see how people draft all types of the business transactions with the contractual language. The wide range of exposure really opened my eyes to the business world,” said Zhu. “I can vividly remember my excitement when I saw the contract draft sent back by the counter-party, leaving the clause I wrote untouched. I probably will remember the feeling for quite a long time.”

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