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If you ask the staff at Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers what stands out about Fatima Adam, their Summer Jobs student, they will talk about her sense of humor.
But over the past two months, Fatima has done more than just come out of her shell around her supervisors. She says she has learned to be more professional, efficient and organized.
“This is my first office job,” she said. “I find that I am interacting with adults much more. You learn quickly to be professional and friendly, and say ‘good morning.’ There is a level of professionalism in any office that isn’t there at other kinds of summer jobs,” she said.
In the past, Fatima has volunteered overseas for the Meseret Humanitarian Organization, an initiative to reduce vulnerability among children and women in Ethiopia. She believes she wants to focus on business and international relations in her future career, and she is considering going to law school after college.
“When I first heard about the program, I wanted to participate because it sounded really interesting and I wanted to see if I really wanted to do law,” she said.
Fatima said she has also discovered other interests during the weekly enrichment seminars offered to the students. During a mock city council hearing earlier in the summer, she was excited to learn that eligibility to run for Boston’s city council begins at age 18. Someday, she might want to serve as an elected official, she said.
“I love the enrichment seminars because some of the office work can be more administrative but the seminars give us the chance to learn about something different,” she said.
Fatima plans to study international relations at Bunker Hill Community College in the fall.
When the summer began, Sherley Muscade didn’t know much about urban planning.
Now, she can rattle off a series of buildings the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) had a hand in erecting. She has reviewed real estate documents dating back to the 1980s, reorganized the BRA’s archives and gained a new perspective on old neighborhoods. She has even drafted important legal documents, such as mortgage discharge papers and land use agreements, to help the staff on the 9th floor of City Hall.
“I’m in love with the BRA,” Sherley said of her summer job.
This is the first year the BRA has participated in the BBA’s Summer Jobs Program, and the team working with Sherley had a lot of good things to say about her performance. She is an asset both in the office and on the playing field, having joined the BRA’s softball team shortly after starting there.
Kate Sullivan, a receptionist at the BRA, said Sherley is “kind, professional and poised,” which Sullivan found especially impressive for someone Sherley’s age.
Though Sherley is not yet done with high school, she is seriously reviewing her college options, and said one of the best parts of talking with her coworkers at the BRA is learning more about their experience in their undergraduate studies and in law school.
“Everybody is a resource to me. They are unbelievably friendly and helpful, and always ready to share their stories with me,” she said.
While Sherley said she does not anticipate pursuing a career in real estate law, she thinks her work at the BRA could be helpful years down the line when she gears up to take the bar exam.
“Before I started working here, I didn’t know the bar exam covered all of the different types of law, so it’s helpful to hear these new terms and learn how to apply them,” she said.
In her application for the program, Sherley said she was looking for a way to make her summer more active and productive. Since she started, Sherley said the Summer Jobs program has helped her think “in more realistic terms” about her goals for her future schooling and career.
“The people here are so amazing and I had no idea how lucky I would be to get into this program,” she said.
With the end of their summer internships on the horizon, students of the BBA’s Summer Jobs program spent Wednesday morning with legal professionals involved in a diverse range of legal fields. Through this event, Exploring Legal Careers, students heard firsthand descriptions of each guest’s chosen career path, asked any questions they had, and discussed a wide variety of legal topics.
Family law attorney Enjoli Alexander shared her unique experiences as a solo practitioner, emphasizing the flexibility her position provides. While it is essential to carefully manage her work and personal time, Alexander described her freedom with excitement, stating, “I can watch a movie in the middle of the day if I want to!” She also emphasized the fact that students can major in whatever subject interests them and still pursue law, allowing many legally-curious students to breathe a sigh of relief.
Kodie Richardson, a paralegal at Robins Kaplan LLP, offered insight into the whirlwind of challenges and opportunities one experiences as a paralegal. “There are times where you may get home, take a shower, put on clean clothes, and be out the door and on your way back to the office,” Richardson described. “But it’s exciting, and I find myself learning something new every day.” Many students were also unaware what a paralegal was; Richardson happily explained that a paralegal is trained in an area of law, but not a fully qualified attorney.
Law students Courtney Person and Richard Jean Baptiste attending New England School Law presented a depiction of the law school lifestyle. When asked why they left their Florida and South Carolina homes for Boston, both agreed that they wanted to “compete with the best.” They mentioned that the most important skill they have learned is how to effectively tailor an argument to its audience. “Even if you get the right answer, it won’t mean anything if you don’t know how to get your point across,” remarked Baptiste. Person and Baptiste gave Summer Jobs students a valuable opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of law school, their next step should they decide to pursue a legal career.
Maureen McDonagh illustrated her work at The Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. She analogized her work to that of a licensed driver teaching a permit-holding learner; law students within her program are able to perform the functions of a full attorney, provided McDonagh is there to oversee and “take the wheel” at any time. “It’s really fun for the students to work on real cases while in law school,” said McDonagh, “and for many, it’s the most fulfilling aspect of their law school experience.” Students were awe struck by the opportunities described by McDonagh. For many, her account was another point in favor of attending law school.
Adrian Bispham, attorney for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, gave an iteration of criminal law from the perspective of a government prosecutor. As a member of the District Attorney’s Office’s Gang Unit, Bispham helps run youth programs that prevent neighborhood violence, such as Soccer for Peace and Overcoming Violence. “Most of the people I work with who are accused of a crime are 18 to 25 years old, which can be frustrating to see,” stated Bispham. “It’s important to have people familiar with these neighborhoods involved in the justice process,” he highlighted when asked how he helps to minimize gang activity.
Formerly a judge’s clerk and currently an in-house attorney, Jennifer Watson shared a wide range of experiences with Summer Jobs students. “Being a clerk is a fun experience; you’re together with a bunch of law school graduates, consulting each other about the law, tossing the football around, and talking to the judge about your conclusions,” said Watson. When confronted about the low pay expected during a clerkship, Watson argued, “The insight you gain into legal protocol and a judge’s way of thinking make you an invaluable asset for the rest of your career.” Most students had never spoken with someone with clerking experience, prompting a joyous onslaught of clerking-related questions.
Kevin Nolan, a business attorney focusing on private equity funds and institutional investment, gave the perspective of a large firm attorney. Upon being asked about the greatest challenges he experiences, Nolan referenced the constantly demanding nature of his job. “I sometimes don’t spend as much time with my family as I want, and competing client interests sometimes make it difficult to please everyone,” recounted Nolan. However, according to the attorney, the intellectual stimulation provided by his line of work makes the profession more than worthwhile.
Following the program, Summer Jobs students spoke highly of the experience. “I really like hearing from the attorneys and law students,” one student remarked. “It got me thinking about what I wanted to pursue.”
Another student described the event as an eye-opening experience. “The law students and attorneys gave great insight as to what legal paths I can pursue in my life.”