How did you learn about the position? (Lindsay) My dad teaches an Executive MBA course in São Paulo every March, and while he was there, he met some executives from a Brazilian airline company called Azul. He told their head of legal, an American attorney, that his daughter and son-in-law were in law school and were interested in spending some time in Brazil. We were lucky that the attorney invited us down, no questions asked.
How did you apply and what was the application process like? (Lindsay) Again, we were lucky that we got an invitation. I think it helped that the company was new and fast-moving, and needed some help. We did have to work out some logistics with the company regarding our positions, since only Derrick spoke Portuguese. The toughest “application” was the visa process. Brazil makes it very difficult for Americans to do internships.
What was a typical day or week at your position like? (Derrick) It’s difficult to provide a “typical day” description, because my services were so “mercenary” in nature that I really didn’t do the same day twice. We arrived at the office at 8AM most mornings and stayed till about 5PM. As I suppose is common with many internships, work didn’t just end up on my desk – I only got assignments if I proactively sought them out. (Most people are working on their own important projects, so you really can’t blame them for failing to be concerned if you’re not working 24/7.) I would usually ask people if they had something for me to do: if they had an assignment, I would spend my day working on that; if they didn’t, I would either help out other departments with non-legal assignments or I would study the Brazilian equivalent of 1L textbooks. (If you think reading about civil procedure is a headache, try doing it in a second language!) Even the less thrilling days were still worthwhile, however. How many people can claim that they wrote the Wikipedia page for civil procedure in Brazil?
(Lindsay) Since I don’t speak Portuguese, and most of the legal work the company did was in Portuguese, I did more business work. I created revenue reports and reported on daily success of many of the airline’s supplementary programs.
What was the coolest part about the position? (Derrick) Work-wise, I really loved doing legal research. It was interesting doing the whole process without access to anything resembling LexisNexis or Westlaw. With Brazil being a civil law system, statute is infinitely more important than precedent, however, so a lot of the time legal research consisted of looking at the corresponding government agency and seeing if they had declared any sort of law. But honestly, the traveling was undoubtedly the best part.
(Lindsay) FREE FLIGHTS! Azul flies all over Brazil, so we got to take advantage of the flights and see the country. We went on many weekend trips, from Rio de Janeiro to Iguaçu Falls to the Amazon. It was also great to live and work in a new culture.
What did you gain from the experience? (Derrick) I was initially a little worried about taking an internship for an airline company – I was afraid that the law office at Azul would deal with a narrower spectrum of legal issues than a law firm. However, I was very happy with the broad range of projects that I was able to work on. Over the course of the summer, I got to work on contracts relating to the purchase of airplanes and flight simulator equipment; I helped review tort cases dealing with overbooking, lost luggage and various other mishaps, helped draft company policy regarding lost-and-found return periods, and helped settle various workers’ rights claims. At the end of the summer, I could say that I had worked on at least one project in several fields of law.
What advice would you offer future applicants? (Lindsay) Use the connections you have. Derrick and I wanted to spend time in Brazil, and we had a great liaison to the Brazilian business world in my dad. We would never have gotten this opportunity if we were afraid to exploit our connection.