Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : August 2006

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With Law Links, High School Students Find More Than Just a Summer Job

As sunlight drenched the cafeteria of the Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the University of Maryland School of Law on June 28, Ella Bialek and Felicia Moore sat overlooking the courtyard while they gradually became acquainted with each other. Adorned in a brand-new, tailored blue blazer, Moore anxiously prodded her luncheon partner for information about what could be expected for the remainder of her summer – one that would be filled with a number of firsts; to be sure, the pair ventured off after their meal for a better view of exactly what Moore could expect.

"I used to hate
reading, but
I began getting
A's [in class]
and the teachers
began to notice
an improvement,"
said Lee, citing
the reading of depositions as
the main reason.

"I have never been in an office before or had my own desk," Moore said after touring the law offices of Miles & Stockbridge in downtown Baltimore – the site of her summer internship - with her supervisor, Bialek, who works in the firm's marketing and client services.

For the past 12 years, the Citizen Law-Related Education Program (CLREP) has enabled juniors and seniors within the Baltimore City public school system to experience the same emotions and thrills as Moore through its Law Links program, which places selected students in an eight-week summer internship with law firms, law-related organizations and the courts throughout Baltimore City. For these organizations, hiring a summer intern at $6.50/hour is a much more attractive scenario than finding full-time personnel to file depositions and perform other entry-level type duties. For this reason, the program has maintained a reliable stable of businesses that continually participate, including Miles & Stockbridge, Office of the State's Attorney, Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, DLA Piper Rudnick and Office of the State's Solicitor.

"[The program] gives kids who have interest in law as a professional career an opportunity to work in a professional setting," says Executive Director of CLREP Rick Miller. "We are not necessarily guiding them to be lawyers, but to be successful."

Moore is just one of 28 Baltimore City high school students this year to participate in the Law Links program this year – an honor in and of itself. To apply for the program, a student must have at least a C+ average, above-average school attendance and no conflicting summer events. Eligible applicants must then send transcripts and attendance records to CLREP, along with three letters of recommendation and a cover letter.

The application process is handled by Sara Beegle, CLREP's Outreach Coordinator, who participated in the program herself during the summer of 1998. Beegle claims that grades are the least influential factor in acceptance; attendance records are more important due to the fact that the law firms rely on the timeliness of the students, who have to arrange their own transportation. While these arduous tasks might intimidate average 15, 16 and 17-year-olds, the selected students in the program have an undaunted attitude.

"I am a very determined person," says 2006 Law Links participant Jazmine Dorsey, a rising senior from Western High School. "I will allow nothing to hinder the progression of my succession. I was destined for greatness and will be great."

This type of attitude has allowed the previous 550 participants of Law Links to complete the program and go on to grand opportunities. Some former participants have attended Ivy League schools while others have gotten jobs with the Pro Bono Resource Center.

"The program is geared towards those who can benefit from it," notes Beegle. "The professional world is different from [the children's] world. The experience of being employed in a professional setting is the most beneficial . . . [though] everyone takes something different away from it."

The experience and networking opportunities are just a few of the advantages of the program. The ability to prioritize, accept responsibility, speak with authority and professionalism are just a few of the many qualities participants take away from their internship. Iolaus Lee, a 2005 Law Links intern, conveyed his experience when he spoke to this summer's crop of interns on the first day. A senior from Baltimore City College High School, Lee said the program helped him change his attitude and gain responsibility that he otherwise may not have gotten.

"The lawyers treat you with respect," said Lee. "They make you feel real comfortable – they talk to you on the same level."

While interning at DLA Piper Rudnick Cary Gray US LLP (the only participating firm whose office is not located downtown), Lee would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a bus near his home off of 33rd Street (near the site of Memorial Stadium) to get to the office by 9:00 a.m.; after clocking out at 5:00 p.m., he would not get home until 8:30 p.m. The work was basic – read depositions and file documents – yet, the reward was grand.

"I became better in English and more analytical," said Lee, citing the reading of depositions as the main reason. "I used to hate reading, but I began getting A's [in class] and the teachers began to notice an improvement."

"The hope is that they expand their post-high school career goals – create a sense of direction," adds Miller. Lee plans to attend the University of Michigan after high school, where he will study medicine.

While their friends splash in the pool or at the ocean, these intrepid interns spend their summer toiling in law offices for 40 hours a week, getting a step ahead on their futures.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: August 2006

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