On a drizzly morning, the streets were dotted with umbrellas and suit-clad business people desperately holding newspapers above their heads. I realized I wasn’t in Portland anymore. Contra Portland’s laid back, “quirky” vibes, our nation’s capital buzzes with a different energy. The city teems with activity, as the foremost legal and political minds in the country face off daily.
I arrived in DC in early January to spend a week shadowing Paul Levy, a lawyer at Public Citizen. Within the small and highly collaborative litigation group at Public Citizen—a nonprofit whose stated goal is to champion citizen interests before Congress and the Courts—Paul specializes in first amendment, and more specifically internet speech, law, often representing anonymous clients.
I didn’t know what exactly I would be doing prior to my arrival at Citizen. Paul let me know that his caseload is unpredictable and I should come, not prepared for any particular thing, but for anything. Further, I would be working with another intern, Kendra, a 3L at Harvard Law School.
This January I was able to spend three days shadowing Amber Hollister, the General Counsel at the Oregon State Bar. I went into the experience with a strong interest in the connection between law and ethics, but actually knowing very little about how the rules that govern lawyers play out in real life.
On the first day of the shadow, I was able to learn about the role of the disciplinary counsel at the Bar and about the process that occurs when somebody files an ethics complaint against the lawyer. During the next two days, I was able to see how these ethics rules get put into practice. I met with law students, lawyers, and even judges, which was an invaluable opportunity.
One of the most meaningful parts of my winter shadow experience was being able to meet Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Adrienne Nelson and sit in on one of her court proceedings. Afterwards, she generously met with us and discussed her own experiences as a judge and a lawyer. I also had the honor of meeting United States District Court Judge Michael Simon and Oregon Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Garrett, who both went out of their way to answer our questions and share their experiences with us.
Aliana Knoepfler, sophomore psychology major, participated in the Reed externship program. She spent her spring break learning hands-on about family law in Charleston, South Carolina.
This spring break I externed with family law attorney Gregory Forman in Charleston, South Carolina. Going into the externship, I was not sure what to expect as I knew very little about family law but was nevertheless very interested in learning as much as I could. I was specifically interested in what day-to-day life is like for a lawyer.
For a week, I observed Mr. Forman meet with clients, review documents, attend mediation, visit court and more. I was surprised to learn such a great deal about family law and also discover how interesting it is and how greatly it differs from other areas of law. In addition to learning about family law, I was also interested in learning more about law in general. Before this externship, I did not know about the option of becoming a sole practitioner rather than working at a law firm. I was able to learn that there are benefits to being a sole practitioner, such as more control over one’s career as well as more flexibility.
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 experience I had with the Redden & Findling externship was a wonderful one. The people I met over the course of the week were phenomenal, being professionally informative as well as welcoming. I am completely satisfied with the knowledge I gained and I am grateful to the Redden & Findling firm as well as The Center for Life Beyond Reed for providing me with this opportunity.
The externship at the law offices of Redden & Findling seemed to be slightly different than the other externships offered, since it gave a firsthand look into the professional lives of a high-paced law office in East Portland. Traditionally, it’s quite difficult to find opportunities in the area of law as an undergraduate student because of the large pool of graduate law students around the country who are also competing for internships and employment. This externship is a rare experience and it should absolutely be taken advantage of if it continues to be offered.
The highly specialized nature of practicing law generally excludes most untrained students from participating, but Mike Redden found a great balance between observation and engagement that kept me interested for the duration of the week. Rather than have me do office work or simply sit and watch, he narrated almost all of his tasks to me so that I would have some idea of what was going on. All of this insider knowledge about the workings of law firms, estate planning and the ins-and-outs of the law code, combined with fanciful stories of the old days at Reed College, national bridge tournaments, and travelling across Europe made the week energetic and exciting. Unfortunately for Mike, he broke his femur weeks before and was confined to his home office, but it was better than ever for me – delicious lunches made by his wife and the company of two loving dogs by my side was more than I could ask for! His hospitality, willingness to answer all questions, and general light-heartedness showed me a side of law that I’d never seen before.