I have done two externships so far at Seattle University. My first was at the Washington Attorney General’s office where I had volunteered the previous summer, and my second was at the Northwest Justice Project. To say I was apprehensive in looking for my first position, is an understatement. After the anxiety I had felt in my first year of law school from imposter syndrome and mediocre grades; I could not imagine that any practicing attorney would find any value in my contributions. But my faculty advisor was telling me how valuable an externship would be, so I emailed the externship office. The process of signing up was very easy. I was scheduled an appointment with Professor Dutton, who met with me. We had a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation on career plans, my work experience, and the openings they had available. Professor Dutton’s assistant, Samira, walked me through the steps of applying. I applied for an opening at the AGO office that I had found on my own and was accepted.
My first externship at the AGO was fantastic. Not only did I feel valued, but I was busy with real legal work on real cases from day one. The work included researching case law, writing memos, and even writing motions. I learned about the implications of qualified immunity from the perspective of the state. I learned about the obstacle course cannabis dealers had to negotiate to stay legal. I met and made friends with attorneys who reached out to include me in their social activities. The seminar with Professor Dutton was invaluable in helping me to recognize the larger implications of the work I was doing, while also making sure that I was focused on improving my skills and knowledge. By developing goals with my supervisors and Professor Dutton, all of us committed to getting the full value of my time. It really kept me from being assigned busy work and gave us milestones to check our progress. The conversations I had with my classmates in the seminar and with my supervisors at the AGO, benefitted from the topics that were introduced in the seminar. We were able to compare different legal fields, to learn about the latest developments, and to meet practicing attorneys.
My second externship was serendipitous. I had hoped to find an externship with a non-profit or a smaller firm, but I wasn’t able to find an opening. However, Samira in the externship office, was able to find me a position with the Legal Media team at the Northwest Justice Project. Not only was it the organization I had wanted to work for, but as a former advertising professional, my previous work experience came in very handy. In my externship, I did a survey of all 50 state’s free legal help websites which opened my eyes to the world of legal design. It also brought home the overwhelming demand for low-cost legal help. Over the course of the externship, I had some family issues that created some scheduling obstacles, but with the help of my supervisors and the flexibility of the externship office, I was still able to complete it. My seminar was with an inspiring Seattle U Alum, Morgan Mentzer. Professor Mentzer’s seminar was incredibly valuable to me because it broadened my understanding of the needs for legal representation across many different populations. My classmates were in organizations that I knew nothing about. Over the semester I not only learned more about them, but I learned more about the areas of law that impacted them.
Overall, the externships I have had have been the most rewarding of all my experiences at law school. I didn’t come to law school to prove anything or to please my family. I came to law school to become a lawyer, and in my externships, I actually felt like I was one.