Thursday, August 10, 2017

Where and when was your internship?
September 2013 to April 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Why did you apply? What had you hoped to get out of your internship? 
I had initially signed up for the training weekend as I seen a presentation about Amicus in my university and I was curious more so than anything else. However, over the course of the weekend I learned so much about the injustices of the American legal system and couldn't sit back and not do anything about it. I jumped at the chance of getting involved, after all I heard I couldn't not apply for an internship! It was a world away from the corporate, commercial training contracts that I had been exposed to at university, I saw the internship as a real opportunity to work in an area I am passionate about and channel my enthusiasm for human rights into helping people.

What did an average day involve?
There wasn't really an average day. Some days, I'd genuinely be photocopying for eight hours straight, which was not the most exhilarating experience but I never minded as on other days I'd be visiting prisons, driving up the Georgia mountains to speak to witnesses, visiting death row itself or up in court. During my time with the office there was a trial and we'd be in court for weeks with plenty of sleepless nights and countless trips to prison to meet with our client. There were really long days, where you worked really hard and at times it very admin-heavy, but because I understood how the work fed into the case and how important it was, I was always made really valuable. Every day there was something new and different - the cases were varied and the clients were varied. I also got to work in a really diverse office, which was a big melting pot of people from all backgrounds but they felt like my adoptive Southern family by the end!
What shocked you?
It's a big culture shock, probably more so than people expect because we think we know so much from films and the media about America. It was shocking how different people's attitudes are socially, politically and culturally compared to the UK - on big issues like guns or even gay rights, you are faced with a whole spectrum of views which are quite unlike any I had been exposed to before. It's easy to find friends, as I learned that southern hospitality is one of the greatest things about the deep south, but it's hard to find people like your friends at home. Cultural reference points and humour are different as well as their values. It's not a bad thing at all, I loved having the opportunity to speak to people with entirely different outlooks on life to me and I found there was a lot we could learn from each other if I'm honest.
What did you learn?
At the time it was my first real experience of working in an office - I learned so many transferrable skills such as the importance of meeting deadlines, team-work, communication skills etc. I was very lucky as I was given lots of responsibility from the very beginning as the team genuinely needed me to help them out as they were such a small team! They were very hands-on and supportive, allowing me to develop that skill set that I maybe wouldn't had the opportunity to do if I had taken a role in a bigger office. It's also a baptism of fire of learning to build rapport with clients and speaking to people of different backgrounds. I learnt how to interact with people whose life experience was completely different to mine. When you're there speaking to a client, you have to find the common ground, even if that means taking an interest in American football for the duration of your stay! You have to build trust with your clients, which you only really learn through practice and being on the job. 
How has your internship contributed to what you're doing now?
Loads! In every interview I've had since returning it's been brought up and it's given a bank of life experiences to draw on for any interview question. It definitely makes you stand out. It also gave me the opportunity to do a job I loved going into every day, I wanted to be at work every morning  and didn't even really care that much about weekend - it made me understand that it is possible to love what you do. The lawyers I worked with were incredibly inspiring - they worked tirelessly for the clients despite getting paid very little but absolutely loved their jobs. It has instilled in me that I have to do a job where I feel like I am helping the right people and that has shaped all the roles I have applied for since. 
What would you say to any prospective interns?
If you are considering it - research it, look into it, speak to a former intern, have a realistic expectation of what it entails and if your still interested - APPLY! You will be challenged and it's definitely not an easy way to get work experience. But no one I have ever met has ever regretted going for it. If you are doing it for the right reasons and if you genuinely want to make a difference, there are not many other opportunities for young lawyers to be on the frontline in fighting against injustice. It is a really special experience and definitely the best seven months of my life!