Some Fordham Law students faced uncertainty in the spring when the coronavirus forced summer internships to be shortened or canceled altogether. However, many of the Law School’s alumni quickly stepped up to take those students under their wings and provide remote work opportunities throughout the country, from Miami to Los Angeles and beyond.
From the Big Apple to Albany
Recent J.D. graduate Claudia Bennett ’20 landed a summer internship with Kathy Walter ’17, program counsel with the New York State Division of Consumer Protection. Bennett—who was spending her 3L year abroad at LUISS University in Rome as part of a dual-degree LL.M. program hosted through Fordham Law’s Study Abroad Office—was sent home early in the spring semester. Needing to find a position to earn required internship credits, she discovered Walter’s posting in an email sent by the Public Interest Research Center.
“Normally this program only takes place in Albany and so it probably wouldn’t have been easy for me to participate in since I am based in New York City,” Bennett said. “However, since this position was all-remote, I was able to get an experience that I might not have otherwise had in law school.”
One of Bennett’s large assignments was working on the Consumer Law Help Manual, which is to be published by the Department of State (DOS) in the Spring. Bennett helped take complex rules and statutes and summarize them in a way that is simple and easy for the average consumer to understand.
“This type of internship gives students—especially those that aren’t taking what a lot of people think of as the typical big law path—the opportunity to have a much broader education and access to much broader opportunities,” Walter said. “Plus, it gives the alumni community the opportunity to have Fordham Law students working for us, regardless of where we are located..”
Providence? No Problem
Associate Editor of Fordham Law’s Intellectual Property and Information Journal Justin Javier ’21‘s original summer internship offer fell through the week after finals. But, he rebounded and applied for a summer clerkship position with Hanson Curran, LLP, where Joshua Carlin ’99 is a partner. This was the first time that Hanson Curran offered a summer clerkship opportunity.
“We decided to give it a shot, but we didn’t necessarily know whether anybody would be interested in doing something with us since we’re in Providence,” Carlin said. “In normal times we wouldn’t have ever thought to do something like that. It took this pandemic to force us to think a little differently, and it ended up turning out great.”
During the 10-week-long program, Javier researched health information privacy laws, drafted and responded to discovery requests, and worked on a complex motion for summary judgment in a consolidated suit concerning multiple breach of contract claims. He said the internship was one of the most valuable experiences he has had during his law school education.
“It was an incredible opportunity to work closely with intelligent, creative individuals, who provided a real sense of what I want to do after I graduate,” said Javier, who will continue his clerkship with Hanson Curran this fall. “I believe that working in a small firm allowed me to work on substantive matters that I may not have experienced elsewhere. Although the events that led me to this internship were unnerving, I am really glad that things happened the way that they did.”
Welcome to Miami
In late May, first-year law student Katrina Codilla ’22 accepted an offer to intern for Judge Lauren Louis ’00, federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Over the course of two months, she drafted memos, briefs, and decisions on motions, such as whether to allow motions in limine by opposing parties.
Codilla says that she gained valuable research and writing skills and learned how to self-delegate and prioritize tasks. She was also able to observe what works and what doesn’t by watching lawyers in hearings that took place over Zoom. “It was definitely very fascinating to hear the lawyers argue,” Codilla noted.
While Judge Louis had regular chamber meetings with Codilla, her three other interns, and her two law clerks over Zoom, she made sure to also hold virtual Friday luncheons.
“For an hour, we might talk about cases and hearings that were conducted and then we talked about Netflix movies and politics—whatever we wanted. I tried as hard as I could, without it being overly forced, to help the interns make a social connection among themselves and the law clerks,” Judge Louis explained. “I think that the ability to develop those friendships and mentorships are a key part of why you intern in the first place.”
“I think working for a federal judge was a great experience and would recommend it for anyone hoping to gain some judicial exposure and hoping to build a solid foundation in legal research and writing,” said Codilla of her internship.
Clerking in California
Gabriele Forbes-Bennett ’21, Associate Editor of the Fordham Media and Intellectual Property Law Journal, applied to three remote internships. She ultimately felt that clerking with Jim Bulger ’03, attorney at Seber Bulger, would provide her with a valuable experience. This summer, Forbes-Bennett drafted complaints, discovery requests, and demand letters on a variety of issues for the plaintiff-side personal injury firm.
This was Seber Bulger’s first time offering a remote clerkship program to Fordham Law students. Bulger said he would certainly do this again if the opportunity presented itself.
“Obviously being in Los Angeles is a challenge during a normal year, but if we could keep this program going—even when everybody’s back—and have an associate who lives in New York or anywhere and is able to work for us, that would be really great,” he said. “I actually hope that it does continue, in some respect, when we all go back to normal.”
Forbes-Bennett said this experience, coupled with the networking she did earlier this year, demonstrates the strength of the Fordham Law alumni network.
“It shows that Fordham Law grads really enjoy giving back and providing opportunities to students, especially during these very strange times,” she continued. “It’s encouraging to see that the Fordham community is so strong.”
Forbes-Bennett will continue her clerkship this semester while balancing her remote classes.