After ten weeks, the 2023 DEI Summer Fellowship program concluded last month. The program provided not just an invaluable professional experience, but a much-needed paycheck for this group of gifted, driven law students. In their own words below, they explain what the experience meant to them, and the lessons they will carry throughout their professional journeys.
David Chairez, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
I spent my BBA DEI Summer Fellowship at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). While at the MCAD, I worked directly under the General Counsel. I was able to assist the General Counsel on legal matters that would support MCAD in its mission to fight discrimination throughout the Commonwealth. For instance, one of my biggest assignments this summer was to help update MCAD’s Workplace Harassment Guidelines. These guidelines had not been updated since the early 2000s; therefore, I was tasked to edit the guidelines to reflect new changes in the law. This consisted of intense research of Massachusetts case law and precedent established by MCAD. After having done this research, I then had to present the new information I had found in a clean, concise manner. I was able to draft entirely new sections in the guidelines and include any text that was found to be necessary. This assignment was really enjoyable as it was a great way to take all of the skills I learned from law school and apply them to a legal document that will be referenced by lawyers, employers, and employees for years to come.
Alongside the Workplace Harassment Guidelines, I was able to engage in other meaningful work at MCAD. For instance, I was able to write multiple memos on public accommodation and harassment law in order to assist Commission Counsel in their prosecution of cases. There were also multiple opportunities for me to sit in on mediations and conciliations with MCAD’s Alternate Dispute Resolution team. There, I was able to witness live conversations between attorneys, their clients, and a mediator/conciliator. This experience was truly eye-opening as it exposed me to a practice of law that I never had witnessed before.
Overall, my time at the MCAD was a very meaningful experience that I will truly remember. When I started considering what I wanted to do for my first summer as a law student, I wanted to join an organization that would not only allow me to learn more about the law but also have a part in putting the law into practice. I found that at MCAD. The entire team at MCAD entrusted me with assignments and tasks they knew would be beneficial for me. They gave me true ownership over my assignments and had complete faith in me to complete them. I did not expect to have this level of trust and responsibility coming into my Summer Fellowship, but I’m thankful to MCAD for having confidence in me and my skills. I now feel better suited to advance in my legal career because of my time at MCAD and my participation in the BBA’s DEI Summer Fellowship Program.
Darren Clark, Attorney General’s Office
I spent this summer working in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, specifically in the Children’s Justice Unit (CJU) of the Civil Rights Division (CRD). I worked under the supervision of Director Liza Hirsch and AAG Cassandra Thompson. The work was one of my favorite experiences in my admittedly short legal career, as part of my reasoning for coming to law school was to protect the most vulnerable among us.
Though the CJU focuses on all areas of law that can and will affect children in the state, my work mainly centered on policy work and legal research and writing. While I cannot go into much detail due to the confidential nature of the work, I can say I worked on a multitude of issues surrounding children, including school discipline of special education students, police in schools, child nutrition, creating a child’s counsel within the AGO, and investigating state agencies reporting investigatory findings on state agencies that work with children. My supervisors and I are also committed to always keeping in mind how our work takes into account and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. My supervisor frequently asked me to give my lived experience on matters involving black children and queer youth and how the issues mentioned above impact these communities. For instance, my supervisor and I began a project on how schools’ disciplinary policies across the country for special education students disparately impact black and brown students.
Two highlights stand out to me during my time at the AGO: First, the office granted me the privilege to attend a hearing with the Health Care Financing Committee at the Massachusetts State House, in which one of my supervisors gave testimony. Second, I am proud of building plenty of great connections during my time at the AGO. My supervisor and I fostered a close professional relationship that I hope to keep nurturing as time goes on.
Finally, I want to speak about my mentor, Mandie Lebeau, Assistant Dean for Career Development and Public Service. Mandie gave me great advice on dealing with my professional career and offered to read my cover letters and resume whenever I begin applying for jobs. She also provided me with multiple connections to people in my preferred field of criminal prosecution to talk with whenever I start my job search. I am thrilled with Mandie and am grateful to the BBA for helping me get to know her. Overall, this program helped make my summer a great one, both professionally and personally, and I am so happy to be a part of the BBA DEI Fellowship.
Grant Ford, Massachusetts Department of Revenue
I am thankful that I was able to spend my 1L summer working in the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s (DOR) litigation bureau. My time at the DOR has provided valuable insight into the substantive work of being an attorney and allowed me to practice solving legal issues faced by tax litigators. Throughout the summer, I conducted legal research into issues before the DOR and wrote memoranda advising the department on litigation strategies. Additionally, I was able to attend administrative tax board proceedings, witness deposition preparation, and even sit in on criminal and family court proceedings. The DOR staff and interns that I spent my summer with were instrumental in my growth as a member of the legal community, and I have found the experience to be a difference maker.
DOR employees were unapologetically invested in my professional growth. I had ample opportunity to pursue work that I found intriguing, and my supervising attorneys made it a point to learn about my aspirations and background. I was trusted to help resolve real issues faced by the DOR and received helpful guidance and feedback on my legal research and writing. I was even fortunate enough to participate in a meeting where staff attorneys discussed a litigation strategy that I devised. My time at the DOR was instrumental in helping me gain the practical skills necessary to find success as an attorney.
In addition to the excellent mentors that I connected with through the DOR, my Boston Bar Association mentor has proven to be a great source of information and guidance. Since I have known her, she has helped me gain clarity in what I seek to work toward in my legal career. Importantly, she has helped me consider the challenges faced by diverse members of the legal community in new ways, and has deepened my commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. I look forward to building on this connection and working to address some of challenges that are often faced by diverse members of the legal community.
Overall, I am incredibly thankful for my summer in the Massachusetts DOR. I was able to polish my legal research and writing abilities with practical experience, and refined the problem-solving abilities that our profession demands. This experience has helped me gain the confidence in my capabilities that I need to reach my potential in the next chapter of my legal career.
Yasmine Ghoneim, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office
Over this past summer I had the opportunity to intern with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in their Roxbury courthouse. The Roxbury office was very welcoming and, to my surprise, everyone was youthful, which made the transition very smooth. During my time at the Roxbury courthouse, I worked on misdemeanor cases that do not require a state prison sentence and felony cases punishable by a sentence of up to five years. Specifically, my time was spent requesting discovery, drafting motions, second-seating trials, and standing on arraignments, plea agreements, and bail arguments.
Going into the internship, I had a general understanding of what a prosecutor does; however, it wasn’t until I began working that I truly understood what the prosecutor’s duty is. Most people think that a prosecutor’s only duty is to get convictions, but that is not the reality. Through my work I have come to realize that a prosecutor’s job is to ensure that justice is properly served while prioritizing the interests of the community. The Roxbury courthouse is in a community predominantly made up of Black residents, many of whom live well below the poverty line, and many of whom suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. The Judges, along with the prosecutors in the Roxbury court, are mindful of the community they serve and will frequently take the time to ensure that the defendant gets the help they need, whether it be treatment for a substance abuse problem or a bed at a half-way house. Prosecutors are not the “bad guys;” if anything, prosecutors wield the power for great change.
My time at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office was a great learning experience. Not only was I able to learn about myself and my interests, but I was also able to get out of my comfort zone and take on new challenges. A weakness of mine that I have struggled with since I was young is public speaking, and working with the District Attorney’s office allowed me to get comfortable with that skill by having to stand before a court full of people. A specific example would be when I argued an entire Motion to Suppress and “won” it. Leading up to the Motion to Suppress, I was a ball full of anxiety because I was nervous about not being able to properly articulate my thoughts with so many people watching me. However, once I did it, I realized it was not as bad as I had made it out to be in my head and everyone, including defense counsel and the judge, were patient and supportive. Additionally, my understanding of criminal procedure and rules of evidence has exponentially improved since I was able to apply them in real life instead of just learning about them on paper.
I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to work with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office as the Boston Bar Association Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Fellow, as it has taught me an abundance of invaluable skills. Moreover, it has shown me the importance of diversity within the legal system and the impact that people of color like me can have
Karl Lackner, Massachusetts Port Authority
This summer, I interned with the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) with the support of the Boston Bar Association and under the mentorship of Senior Associate Chief Legal Counsel, Joe Kaigler. As an intern, I had the opportunity to speak with all of the attorneys in the office, sit in on office meetings, visit Massport-owned properties and facilities, and conduct research on various subject matters.
As the first in my family to go to law school, my internship with Massport introduced me to the world of legal practice and provided me with invaluable insight into practice areas like litigation, real estate, and labor and employment law, from the perspective of a quasi-public agency. Having studied government in college, it was fascinating to glimpse the inner workings of such an agency while taking a deeper dive into some of the laws behind it. At the same time, Massport’s unique status as a quasi-public agency presented an interesting twist on my expectations of government work and further deepened my learning experience. Hearing about the attorneys’ different career paths also helped give me a sense of what my own legal career might look like. I received helpful feedback from Joe Kaigler and the other attorneys on my assignments, which included informal research summaries, formal memos, and contract review and presentations to the real estate team.
Coinciding with my internship were office events honoring AAPI Heritage Month, Pride Month, and celebrating recipients of Massport’s diversity fellowships and internships. I witnessed the active role that Massport takes in elevating diverse voices and uplifting members of the community in material ways. I also had the chance to attend One Massport, an event celebrating the various accomplishments of Massport employees throughout the year and featuring Governor Maura Healey as a speaker. These events reiterated, for me, the importance of taking the time and investing the resources to incorporate diversity and inclusivity into the workplace, especially as an agency tasked to serve the diverse community of Boston.
As I worked on projects and toured the Massport facilities, I gained a deeper connection to the Boston area and a stronger appreciation for all the work that goes into maintaining these important public services. I worked with attorneys who came from very different paths, but who all harbor an inspiring passion for public service. As I enter my 2L year at Boston University, I do not yet know where my legal career will take me, but I am grateful for the work experience and mentorship that I gained from Joe Kaigler and the rest of the legal team at Massport.
Angelina Lin, City of Boston Office of Corporation Counsel
This summer, I was an intern at the City of Boston Law Department. The Law Department is located in City Hall and houses two main departments: litigation and government services. As an intern, I worked on projects for attorneys in both departments. I found this internship to be extremely rewarding. Even though it was only for ten weeks, I have learned a lot and have gained significant legal experience that I believe will be of great help to me as I begin my career as a lawyer after graduation next year. Additionally, the people I met and the attorneys I worked with were all incredibly supportive and were wonderful supervisors to me and my fellow interns.
My work was heavily focused on research and writing. For instance, in government services, I researched issues such as requirements for providing curb ramps under the ADA, the feasibility and organization that would go into establishing a visa sponsorship program for city employees, and how to define ‘indigency’ for the purposes of granting municipal fee waivers. For each project, I would compile the case law and other information I compiled into research memoranda. This was interesting for me as it gave me the chance to learn about various aspects of the case law and municipal codes relevant to Boston.
For the litigation department, I worked on cases involving a variety of claims, such as employment discrimination and civil rights violations. The process for my research work for the litigation departments was not too dissimilar from what I did for government services; I would start from an overarching statute and look for cases that cited that statute. For some projects, I would take my findings and turn them into a research memorandum to assist the attorney in their handling of the case. For another project, however, I had the opportunity to draft a position statement for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. In another, I got to sit in and watch as the attorney went through interrogatory questions with two clients. Afterwards, I took what I had heard during the client meeting and filled out the objections and answers for the interrogatories.
I had never done any work in litigation prior to this summer and was previously unsure whether I would like it. However, through my experience of drafting motions and the like, I have discovered a strong interest in litigation.
Through this internship, I also had the amazing opportunity to attend court hearings and trials. There, I got to watch as the attorneys spoke at hearings or argued motions before the judge. I also got the chance to attend housing court and criminal arraignments, giving me some insight into how those courtrooms operate.
My experience as an intern at the City of Boston Law Department this summer was overwhelmingly positive. I had the opportunity to work on multiple projects to which I made substantial contributions. Additionally, I gained an interest in litigation, which is what I now wish to pursue after law school. As such, I am extremely grateful for the experience I had this summer of working in such a positive environment that really encouraged me to learn and grow.
Annabella Nguyen, Department of Environmental Protection
This summer, I had the opportunity to work for MassDEP as a legal intern through the BBA DEI Summer Fellowship. MassDEP focuses on environmental law issues around the state and gave me an opportunity to see how expansive this area of law can be.
I worked on a number of different topics this summer and was able to explore more of my interests in environmental law. Working with different bureaus on issues like environmental justice, administrative consent orders, and water provided me with amazing opportunities to see how intricate the work can be. During in-office days, I was able to speak with attorneys about current/past cases, current environmental issues, and climate change. These conversations offered me insight into the day-to-day life of an attorney and the things they work on. Seeing the casework and research being done in real time also allowed me to hone my own legal research skills. I was able to ask these attorneys for advice about law school, exams, and life after the bar.
Having the ability to speak to attorneys in positions I am interested in provided me with a wealth of information. Being able to work directly with them on cases and other legal research has benefited me in numerous ways. As I enter my final year of law school, I am excited to take what I have learned from these attorneys and apply it to my academic career.
As a woman of color, I wished to see more people who looked like me in areas of law I was interested in. Because people of color and other historically underrepresented groups have not been represented well in the legal field, I believe it is extremely important to have programs like the BBA DEI Fellowship. This program gives opportunities to students that might not have had a chance to work in these fields. All areas of law—especially public interest—benefit greatly from having a diverse group of legal professionals.
As an Asian woman, I am committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusions in all aspects of my life. In the academic setting, I am creating a space for women of color to find resources and community through the Women of Color Law Student Association at Suffolk Law. In the professional setting, I am speaking on my diverse experiences as a racial minority to encourage conversation and destigmatize the topic. In my social life, I am cultivating friendships with all types of diverse individuals. Through each of these areas of my life, I am constantly learning; I am able to have conversations with other types of diverse people and learn from them and their experiences.
Nneka Nnaji, Committee for Public Counsel Services
I am very thankful for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program at the Boston Bar Association (BBA). This program gave me the opportunity to intern, acquire legal experience in public interest law, and get paid for the work done.
This summer, I had the pleasure of interning with the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS). I was at the Youth Advocacy Division in Roxbury. During my internship, I researched various laws relating to the different cases I was assigned to. I also wrote a couple of motions to dismiss, observed discoveries, spoke to clients, attended court hearings, and visited clients. This was a great experience because it really showed me what the justice system is, and how hardworking public defenders are.
A couple of highlights of my summer were visiting clients in custody and having my attorney argue the motion I wrote in court. It’s weird to label client visits as a highlight, but it really is because I got to see these young teenagers who have so much potential in life be in custody. My first client visit made me think deeply about our society, and how we need more structure and services (such as mental health; well-funded, safe, and developed communities; better educational system in certain areas, etc.) to be able to help these young kids make better decisions.
This experience has advanced my legal career tremendously as I became more confident, a better listener, and a better advocate. There are so many things I did not know about juvenile law; just having this internship really opened my eyes and expanded my knowledge on this aspect of law I never really discussed or talked about at great length.
A professional accomplishment I am really proud of was having a client’s mother tell me that I would be a great attorney someday. The client’s mom commended me for being helpful, patient, a good listener, and understanding of her daughter and the case she had. It made me realize that sometimes we can get caught up in the work we do, but we always have to remember that the people we represent are also human beings and just being present in the moment for them can change things.
I am very thankful to my supervisor, the attorneys I worked with at the office, my mentor, and the BBA for this amazing opportunity. It has been an awesome summer, and I am excited to see what the next summer holds. Thank you!
Esther Teresinski, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, D. Mass
This summer, I interned at the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Court under Judge Bostwick. I worked primarily in her chambers, writing memos and briefs, watching hearings and trials, and reviewing motions and other court documents. My summer consisted of getting a taste of bankruptcy law since it is so broad, and I had no prior knowledge or exposure to the area.
On my first day at the court, I was immediately given a memo assignment to brief a Supreme Court case that changed bankruptcy law. One of my big goals this summer was to get a writing assignment and better my writing skills, which I had shared with Judge during my interview. With that feedback, she ensured I had ample opportunities to write, finishing the summer with a large writing project to use as a writing sample in my future.
As my writing skills increased, I was grateful for the different view of Judge Bostwick. Having just been a 1L, your writing experience is very brief and for a specific purpose. Judge Bostwick taught me how to be flexible and open to constructive feedback as every supervisor I have will expect different formats and types of briefs.
Besides my learning goals, this internship exposed me to the area of bankruptcy law. As a 1L with no exposure to areas outside of the basic classes, I recognized bankruptcy as a possibility without giving it much thought, as it is usually viewed as boring and repetitive. Through reviewing motions and sitting in court, I was able to see bankruptcy covers so many areas of law and changes with every individual case. I am grateful for this exposure because without it, I would completely overlook bankruptcy as a career path when it is an exciting and always relevant field.
In addition to my personal enlightenment, Judge Bostwick was particularly focused to cater to me in terms of my personal goals for the summer. This allowed me to shape my internship around my interests and dig into areas I found interesting. This flexibility made my internship exciting and relevant to me. Often, she would check in to get my thoughts on a particular area, project, or case. This made me feel heard and my experience personalized despite my expectations of feeling inferior and bothersome. Judge Bostwick was incredibly busy with many events and volunteering outside of the court, yet she recognized her responsibility of taking on an intern by providing time for my questions and welcoming feedback because I was her first intern. I had not expected to work so closely with her, which was an assumption I am thankful I was wrong about.
Overall, the summer was tough. I was expected to produce a high level of work, a higher level than was even expected of me in law school. Yet, I appreciate the stress and high expectations of Judge Bostwick as I continue my legal career. Now, I am confident in my writing skills and ability to spot issues in any court document. I am open to constructive feedback and prioritizing being flexible. Most importantly, I am ready to bring my own style and skills to the legal world that is far greater than my 1L mind could imagine.
Vivian Yu, Office of the Inspector General
As I reflect upon this summer’s enriching experiences, I am thrilled to share my participation in the BBA DEI Program. This opportunity led me to an engaging affiliation with the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General, marking my inaugural foray into the world of law during this pivotal phase of my law school education.
Stepping into the realm of the governmental proceedings was a novel endeavor for me, and admittedly, the expectations I harbored were somewhat nebulous despite perusing the provided job description prior to my interview. Nevertheless, what transpired throughout the course of my internship has not only exceeded my initial projections but also significantly augmented my comprehension of the multifaceted legal domain.
My first day at the office ushered me into a whirlwind of activities, and assignments began flowing in almost immediately. I started with some legal research, diving deep into the annals of legislative history pertaining to matters related to the purview of the office. This analytical undertaking was interwoven with the meticulous scrutiny of ongoing and previous cases, illuminating nuances that textbooks and doctrinal classes could scarcely capture.
Drafting memoranda that mirrored the dynamic legal scenarios unfolding beyond the office walls became a rewarding endeavor that polished my legal writing and honed my legal research skills. The invaluable opportunity to collaborate with seasoned professionals pushed me into the realm where intricate legal procedures cease to be theoretical constructs and instead materialize as living entities. The immersive exposure illuminated a broader vista of the legal landscape, fostering a perspective that extends beyond mere textbook percepts.
Another captivating facet of this experience was its role in creating an expansive professional network. Interacting closely with experts and proficient municipal lawyers hailing from diverse fields forged connections that are poised to foster the exchange of knowledge and potentially engender collaborative ventures down the road. The challenges I encountered during the internship were instrumental in tempering my resilience and adaptability, both of which are quintessential attributes in the legal arena. The legal issues I navigated bolstered my confidence, imparting the belief that I possess the acumen to surmount complicated legal impediments that may arise in my future career trajectory.
In addition to the enriching experiences in the office, the office curated a series of tours and workshops that introduced the legislative history of Boston, imbuing our summer with a tapestry of historical context. These immersive excursions offered a multidimensional exploration of the city’s legal heritage, underscoring the profound interplay between law and society. One of the highlights was the guided tour of the State House, an edifice that stands as a living testament to the evolution of governance and jurisprudence in Massachusetts. The resonance of historic speeches and the ornate architecture converged to create an experience that brought history to life, reinforcing the significance of the law in shaping societies.
Amidst this transformative summer, my mentor Emily Sy emerged as a beacon of guidance and support. As the President of the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts (AALAM), her insights and unwavering encouragement lent me an unparalleled perspective. From our very first interaction, Emily’s mentorship transcended the conventional boundaries, as she selflessly invested her time to enlighten and guide me from her own professional journey.
In retrospect, this summer served as an indelible chapter in my ongoing pursuit of legal excellence. It complemented my academic journey, and I am sincerely grateful to have this opportunity to participate in the program.