2L’s Share How they got their Summer Legal Experience: Working for Human Rights in Nepal and for Homeland Security in Washington, DC

Over the next few weeks, PDO will feature in the Career Brief stories from 2L’s on how they got legal experience in the summer after their first year of law school.  This week features Kaitlyn Janowiak, who traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal to work for the Nepal Volunteer Network/Nepalbani Radio Network, and Spencer Hall, who worked for the National Security Law Division of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C.

 Kaitlyn Janowiak: Intern, Nepal Volunteer Network/Nepalbani Radio Network


How did you learn about the position? I researched various international legal internships online. I tried to narrow my search to countries where there were major child rights violations and abuses, because I knew that was the area I wanted to research.


How did you apply and what was the application process like?

I had to fill out a brief application about my experience traveling abroad and relevant research skills. I heard back from the volunteer organization within 1 month that I had been accepted and they placed me with a non-profit in-country.


What was a typical day or week at your position like?

My work week was 6 days a week and I usually went into the office for 5 hours a day. There were often 3 hour power outages during the day that were unscheduled, at which time we were unable to do any work and the whole office would go home.  Some days I had more work than others, and toward the end of the internship I was doing less legal work and more fundraising. At the beginning, I was given various research tasks, but my main focus was on women and child rights in Nepal. Toward the end of the internship, I was writing grants and seeking funding from organizations like UNICEF, USAID, and Save the Children, Nepal.


What was the coolest part about the position?   I was able to go to Save the Children, Nepal and give a presentation of the research I’d conducted on child rights in Nepal.  Also, the people I worked with were extremely helpful and friendly. They were very appreciative of having a native English speaker and gave me a lot of responsibility when it came to research and writing. While I was there, I started a non-profit organization with some other Westerners. I was very appreciative of the people in my office because they were extremely supportive, allowed me to split my time between the non-profit and time in the office. They also referred me to great contacts and assisted me with Nepali law and contract drafting for the non-profit.


What did you gain from the experience?    Working in a developing country poses various challenges and requires you to be flexible. I learned to roll with the punches and adapt to a new culture. I’m incredibly grateful for the experience because it will be valuable if I decide to work internationally.


What advice would you offer future applicants?  Looking for international legal opportunities can be very challenging and it is critical to do the research! Even though I was emailing the organization weekly about what my tasks would be, I was surprised to find that the internship was not at all what I had expected. Most international internships with small non-profits want someone who can commit at least two months and expect you to find your own housing and pay your own way. They simply do not have the capacity to pay for their interns. I would recommend looking into summer financial aid and scholarship/fellowship programs offered through school as soon as possible. The work will not always be challenging, and there is not always a lot of work to do. It’s important to have realistic expectations, learn to make the most of it, and make the experience your own. That could mean anything from being self-motivated and starting your own non-profit, to just getting out into the community and learning about the culture and what the people are all about.


Spencer Hall: Intern, National Security Law Division of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.


How did you learn about the position?  From an email PDO sent to our class.


How did you apply and what was the application process like?  I applied by submitting a cover letter, resume, transcript, etc. via email to the department head.  After several months, without hearing anything from them, I assumed that I wasn’t going to get the job.  Then, Anneliese pushed me to contact them again, just to see what’s up.  So I concocted a reason to send them an updated resume, and within a few days I received a call back asking if I would be willing to interview for the position.

What was a typical day or week at your position like? 
I worked 40 hours per week.  Because it was not a paid position, it was also not as pressured (I think)—although I still took the work very seriously.  I performed research on legal and factual issues, wrote both short and in-depth memos, edited, bluebooked, court watched, and went sight-seeing.  I was also able to travel with others in the office to a national security conference in Denver.


What was the coolest part about the position?  The location.  It was an awesome experience to spend a summer in DC.  If anyone is considering federal government work, I would strongly recommend it.  So much fun.

What did you gain from the experience?   I gained a basic understanding of how government agencies function and the variety of legal opportunities available within the federal government.

What advice would you offer future applicants?  Follow up, even if you feel it is approaching annoying.  I was not their first pick and had I not followed up with them, I most certainly would not have been offered an interview.