Eleven local law students are participating in the BBA’s DEI Summer Fellowship Program this summer, working in paid internships in public interest settings around the city.
This week we caught up with three Fellows and their supervisors to hear about their experiences, what they’ve learned, highlights from their fellowships, and the benefits of taking part in the DEI Fellowship program. They are:
Boston Bar Association: How have you found the Fellowship experience so far now that you’re a few months into the program?
Nneka Nnaji, New England Law | Boston, – Committee for Public Council Services: It’s been great. I’ve loved interning here. I’ve had the opportunity to go to court, see cases, and visit clients. Having conversations with people affected by the work you’re doing makes you kind of drawn to the job more and it gives you purpose. I think that’s great and makes the work really fulfilling.
Darren Clark, Suffolk University Law School – Office of the Attorney General: It has gone so well. I didn’t really have expectations coming in, but I’ve had a great time here. To be frank, this position isn’t necessarily what I’ve had in mind for my future career; I was more into criminal prosecution. What I am doing here tends to deal more with civil litigation and policy. But it’s actually been really interesting because I’m learning a lot of the policies in place that I would be working with in the criminal justice field if I do go that route and getting a well-rounded educational experience.
Yasmine Ghoneim, New England Law | Boston – Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office: My experience has been really, really great. It’s been a goal of mine for a while to at least intern with the DA’s office and get an understanding of what they truly do. It’s also helped me a lot with my confidence in myself and standing in front of a room full of people and speaking, which is typically an issue for me. Overall, it’s been a great experience and I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to work here.
BBA: What has been a particular highlight of your Fellowship thus far?
Darren: I’ve been working with the Children’s Justice Unit in the Civil Rights Division, and that’s meant working on policy focused on children’s nutrition, safety and welfare, schools, etc. It’s been an interesting look at a side of the law and policymaking a lot of folks probably don’t think a ton about.
Nneka: Being able to go see some of the children who we advocate for really put the work into perspective. That, and being able to sit in court and see these processes play out, are things I won’t forget about my time here.
Yasmine: I got to do a motion to suppress, which was my first opportunity to argue before a judge. It went really well, and the motion was allowed, which was great. I am looking forward to the next opportunity I get to go to court; hopefully, that will be very soon.
BBA: How has the program helped prepare you as you look ahead to the beginning of your professional career?
Darren: You can learn a ton from working in different fields. For instance, besides policy work, I’ve learned a lot about civil litigation inside of the children’s justice unit and hit it and it has been very interesting to see. I’ve also really learned how to form a working relationship with my supervisor, which is an important skill in any job. Plus, just being in the office has given me a chance to make new connections and broaden my network, which will make that process of finding a job later in life just a little easier. So, there are a ton of skills and benefits you get that will apply later, no matter what path you take.
Nneka: Beyond things like legal research and writing, I think working in this setting has really taught me to listen and communicate. Listening not just to respond, but to really listen and communicate with fellow staff, clients, in court – these are all skills I will continue to hone no matter what I end up doing or where.
Yasmine: I like to think that no matter the experience you’re getting, you’re going to learn something that you could carry with you. I think the trial practice I’m getting is important no matter what direction my career takes me. Even just the basics of good body language in front of a court and how to speak up and be confident in yourself. Plus, as silly as it sounds, I’ve gotten great experience just learning to argue better. As a lawyer, whether it be in the criminal sense or a civil sense, that’s obviously an essential skill—probably the most important, transferable skill that you can have as an attorney.
BBA: As Supervisors, how has the program benefited you and your agencies?
AG: Having one of the BBA’s DEI Fellows, or any intern really, is always a huge help in the office. As you know, we do public work, so there is so much work to be done. There’s not enough time in a day to do that, so we rely heavily on the interns that come in and help the attorneys do the work, and some fellows even stay longer. They’re so passionate about the work that they just want to stay on, to volunteer to help finish the work and follow through to the end. It’s amazing to have people who are passionate about the work we’re doing and willing to learn. It’s just great to have them here and helping.
CPCS: I see the internship as a pilot line to hiring; it doesn’t have to be that, but that’s certainly one goal. And to affect that goal, we look for diverse candidates, so this fellowship certainly makes that easier for us. Equity and inclusion are very important parts of our work. Our clients are primarily people of color, and we need to reflect that as well in our staff and that starts with our interns, because that’s the pipeline to hiring. In addition, it helps with developing mentoring and teaching/coaching skills for our management and staff. When you’ve been around for a while in this kind of work, it’s easy to become jaded, so for us it’s important to have that fresh pair of eyes looking at the problems we’re trying to solve.
DA Office: People from the outside, I think, have very little information about what this office actually does and what a prosecutor’s role is. The draw in having these younger members of the legal community coming in is they get to see the work that we do. They get to see the impact that we have on the people in the community—not just those who have the charges, but also the victims and the families, the community as a whole. Our work has a much wider reach than anybody knows or sees, and when someone has the opportunity to intern with our office, they’re able to see the full scope of that work.