Not long after law schools nationwide locked down their campuses and shifted to virtual instruction, many law students faced another setback—summer internships, especially in the private sector, were abruptly canceled in response to the coronavirus.
“Summer is such an important time for our students to do important work that is critical not only to their resumes, but for building experience and also helping them figure out what work they want to do after they graduate,” explained Leah Horowitz, director of student interest public engagement.
To meet the needs of students looking for an enriching experience this summer–and, especially those who had lost internships and seasonal work opportunities due to the pandemic–Fordham Law School recently created the new Student Legal Engagement Initiative (SLEI). Horowitz, together with a working group of administrators and professors, reached out to the Law School faculty to identify which centers, institutes, and instructors might be able to take on students in a volunteer capacity.
Horowitz remarked that some students have told her they didn’t have the bandwidth for summer work given the dual stressors of the pandemic and the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. Nevertheless, she said, “I hope that we’ve been able to fill a gap for all of the students who want and need to take on something this summer.”
Currently, there are 13 different SLEI projects. Many directly address issues related to the pandemic and resulting business and court shutdowns. For example, students working with Professor Zephyr Teachout will research small business-related needs and programs in response to Covid-19. In addition, Professor Pamela Bookman plans to have SLEI students surveying various New York civil courts on how they are continuing to provide remote services and access to justice in light of the pandemic.
As part of his SLEI project, Andrew Vazquez ’22 wrote an in-depth analysis of the Supreme Court’s faithless electors decision.
All of the projects are ultimately tied in some way to the present moment. “I don’t think you can be doing any sort of work right now without thinking about COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter,” said Horowitz. “So much of the work that goes on in our centers and institutes is responsive to what’s going on in our society.”