This January, I had the opportunity to spend a few days at New Mexico Legal Aid in Santa Fe. Hosted by alumna Amy Propps ’91, my time at NMLA was probably a bit of a crash-course in the legal aid world. My five days with New Mexico Legal Aid can be best described as a game of question and answer. New Mexico Legal Aid is a statewide public interest legal aid firm that provides free legal services for low-income people and communities throughout the state. Through their various branches located in various cities, they specialize in various types of civil law ranging from family law to property and housing to employment to everything else in between. Just from my short time there, I was able to gain a first hand look into the vast world of legal aid and into the mechanics of exactly what it is that attorneys actually get to do.
When I arrived in Santa Fe, I really had no idea what to expect—either from New Mexico itself or from my time at NMLA. My first time in New Mexico, I admittedly did not know very much about the state’s rich history (nor did I really understand how cold it gets during the winter months). I did, however, know a fair bit about law and the world of public interest law practice. What I didn’t fully know was exactly how diverse, complex, and complicated public interest law could be. Of course, when I got on the plane from Baltimore to Santa Fe, I had had a few hopes and expectations for my externship experience. Having had the longtime goal of attending law school and eventually going on to practice public interest law, the main thing that I wanted to gain from my time at NMLA was a comprehensive look into exactly what the world of public interest law looks like, what sorts of work I could potentially expect to do as an attorney later on, and what sorts of steps I could take to prepare for a life in this field.
When I first arrived in Santa Fe (about two hours later than I had originally planned due to one horrible windstorm over the Midwest and one delayed flight coming from Dallas), Amy and my host, Callie Dendrinos, were waiting for me at the tiny airport. From the get-go Amy and Callie were showing me around and filling me in on New Mexican history and culture.
The camera pans across the office and lands on a young ingénue. She weaves between the various secretarial desks arranged in the large central space of the office, clutching a small box of personal possessions with which she will adorn her own desk. The men of Sterling Cooper gather around the perimeter to gawk at Peggy Olson, who is unaware that this will be her first day as Don Draper’s personal assistant--
Okay, so my externship experience was by no means analogous to Peggy Olson’s introductory scene in the premiere episode of AMC’s Mad Men. But it is approximately representative of my familiarity with advertising when I applied for a winter externship with Cooke & Co., a marketing start up located in Brooklyn, New York and founded by the supremely cool Steve Wax ’65. My existence is surprisingly divorced from the deluge of advertising media some people may experience. There are no commercial breaks on Netflix, I was an early adopter of AdBlock, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a physical piece of print media. Figuratively, I was Peggy Olson on her first day at Sterling Cooper, and literally, all that I knew of advertising was Peggy Olson’s character arch from secretary to senior copywriter.
I can tell you now that Cooke & Co. is nothing like Sterling Cooper, and modern marketing has come a long way since Don Draper. The scope of marketing has expanded from print, radio, and brief television commercials to websites, social media, and beyond. In many ways, advertising platforms are more accessible to brands than ever before, and perhaps as a result, the “market” is a bit saturated. Thus, the need for brands to differentiate both themselves and the ways in which they engage with their audiences has become extremely pronounced.
David Smirnow and his family are fabulous hosts. They let me stay in their home for five days while I shadowed different doctors including David at the city hospital. I was able to see the beautiful Montana landscape every morning on my way to "work" with David. I say "work" because I got to watch everything but did not actually have to do anything. After all I am not certified to cut someone open, not to mention it was too much fun to be called work. David was invaluable in setting up day for me to shadow in pathology, radiology, anesthesiology, and surgery. I had the opportunity to see cancerous cells under a microscope, bones and the womb through CT, MRI, and X-ray scans, brain surgery, and more. The doctors were friendly and full of information to help lead me along my path to medicine. I was also able to see an autopsy, which I admit was a little unnerving but very educational. It was like an anatomy class but more smelly. Overall, definitely an experience not to be forgotten!
The heavens had already started to rumble and give the East Coast a hard time as I flew into NYC a few days after New Year. The first day of work I took the wrong bus and ended up walking 31 blocks down Madison Avenue. Although it wasn’t the most pleasing thing, it was an experience on its own – weaving my way through herds of humans that flock midtown Manhattan every morning. Seeing those skyscrapers tower above me, the financial powerhouses of the world, was an enthralling sight.
I strode into the Conquest Capital office and all I could hear was the buzz of CNBC market tickers signaling stocks, futures, currencies, commodities and what have you. Conquest is a hedge fund involved in trading futures and currencies based on signals from the mathematical mazes underlying their strategies. As a result, most of my work was based on grasping the very elements that make up a trading strategy. I was using a combination of MS Excel and Visual Basic (VBA) to build my model which revolved around what is called a “moving average” in the financial world.
Another part of this great experience was observing traders strike out deals and place orders depending on market conditions. The release of job numbers and retail industry figures for the holiday season coincided with the time I spent there, and I got to see Economics 201 (which I had taken in the fall semester before) at work. I got a real sense of market volatilities and how significantly market indicators can impact trades in S&P 500 and the world currency market.