By: Veronica LaPort, ’24
Law school teaches you many things. It teaches you how to function on 4 hours of sleep, how to read 40 pages of complex material in the 15 minutes you have before class, and most importantly, law school teaches you how to learn the law. But it does not teach you how to be a lawyer; your internships teach you that. Your internships teach you what to do when the client has a panic attack and you have to calm them down over the phone. Or how to deal with the fact that every client you talk to is going through the worst day (or time) of their lives and looking to you to fix all their problems. Summer internships are essential to any law student who wants to know what practicing law is like. That is why I would like to thank the generous donors who contributed to the Catalyst Fellowship, which gave me a chance to have a public interest internship. Thank you to everyone who made the Catalyst fellowship possible, The New York State Court of Appeals, the New York State Bar Association, The New York Bar Foundation and the University at Buffalo School of Law. Thank you for allowing me to have an unpaid internship in the public interest over the summer. I would not have been able to do it without your generous funding.
AND NOW FOR WHAT I’VE LEARNED…
The hardest part of my internship with the ECBA Volunteer Lawyers Project was honestly the walk from Buffalo City Court to the office. The second hardest part was a program called Attorney of the Morning (a.k.a. AOM). Every morning at Buffalo City Court on the seventh floor is a group of dedicated attorneys, paralegals and interns making sure anyone who shows up to landlord-tenant court has an attorney if they want one. Our days for AOM were Tuesday and Thursday. The other days were covered by other legal agencies such as the Center for Elder Law and Justice, Neighborhood Legal Services, and various other organizations and volunteers. On those days in court, the interns had three jobs: intake, assisting the attorneys, and sign-in; my favorite of the three was sign-in.
When working on sign-in, I was responsible for ensuring all the potential clients had checked in with the court clerk and were in the right place. I know at first glance; that this does not seem to be a difficult or busy job, but it was. I was stationed precisely where I am in that picture below. Working at the sign-in station could be pretty exciting. Someone might show up at 8:30 am for a case not scheduled until 10:30 am and continuously give you the stink eye at 11:00 am when their case still has not been called. That did happen; the client kept giving me this expectant look like I was supposed to make the courts move faster. But, the best days at AOM were when a stipulation was reached and the tenant was not evicted. Or when we (the interns or paralegals) made someone feel better by listening to their stories. Some days AOM was exciting, and not always in a good way, but at the end of the shift at noon, I felt like I had helped someone.
Name: Veronica LaPort ’24
Name of Fellowship: Catalyst Fellowship
Placement: ECBA Volunteer Lawyers Project
Location: Buffalo, NY
One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “Summer internships are essential to any law student who wants to know what practicing law is like.”