Over the summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a legal internship with Griesing Law, LLC. The opportunity arose towards the end of my first year of law school at Villanova University and I was thrilled to be able to work with a firm and apply what I had learned during my first year. Then it hit me: I may never actually meet these people.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many law students were sent scrambling for summer employment after many programs were cancelled or scaled back. Law students are generally advised that their goal for the first summer of law school should be to gain some legal experience, but even this became a challenge due to the pandemic. It was this setting which made my interview with, and internship offer from, Griesing so exciting.
At the beginning of the internship, I was aware that there would be some period of time during which I would work from home, but I was not sure if or when I would actually be able to meet and interact with the firm’s attorneys and professional staff. As it turned out, I never had an in-person interaction with any of the attorneys and only traveled to the firm’s office twice, once to pick up my firm issued laptop and once to return it. Law students are often told that collaboration and teamwork are important aspects of practicing law, so knowing that my face to face work with the firm’s attorneys would be very limited (and as it turned out non-existent) made me nervous about the success I would have during my internship.
Despite the absence of “normal” contact I had with those I worked with, I do not feel that my experience was negatively impacted or that I lost out on my opportunity. My normal work day consisted of receiving various types of assignments from attorneys and researching and drafting answers to the legal questions and issues that were presented. This work was daunting at first. Receiving instruction over the phone or via email and then getting to work on your own is certainly a nerve-wracking process.
I soon realized, however, that the remote nature of my work environment did not prevent me from working with and learning from the attorneys and getting a sense of the importance of collaborative work that was stressed so heavily during my first year of school. For just about every assignment I completed on my own, I had a corresponding phone call with at least one attorney to review the main goals of each task or to discuss strategy and the best approach to take in solving a particular issue. From these conversations, I was able to understand what facts and legal rules required particular attention and how to think about approaching and working through each problem that had been presented.
My internship experience was not what I first imagined it would be when I began sending out applications during the spring semester. I would have loved the chance to be in the office and the ability to be able to walk into an attorney’s office and have a brainstorming session or ask about the best way to go about solving a problem. Despite the circumstances, I was in no way disappointed or discouraged by my experience or the amount of information I was able to learn and internalize about what it means to be a lawyer. The disruption of an internship does not compare to many terrible things that people have had to experience as a result of the pandemic and I am grateful that this slight problem proved to be no problem at all.
John Reid, a former intern at Griesing Law, LLC, and a current law school student at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, authored this article.