As a rising junior, I decided to spend my summer figuring out if I law school was really something that I wanted to pursue, before I spent hours studying for the LSAT or researching potential law schools. I pursued an internship at Dady & Hoffmann, LLC, an immigration law firm in Rockford, IL. Immigration law interested me because I spent my last two quarters at NU working at the Center for Forced Migration Studies and I wanted to experience the legal aspect of that work. The unpaid nature of my internship turned out not to be a problem; the Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP) at NU allowed me to take the internship and not have to worry about the finances. Anyone considering an unpaid internship should definitely look into SIGP/apply because it gives you the ability to pursue your interests without having to take a second job or chose an internship based on financial compensation. I’m definitely thankful for SIGP allowing me to have an summer full of learning experiences and personal growth.
When I started at Dady & Hoffmann, LLC, I was given a research project looking into a new program from the Department of Homeland Security and it’s implementation in my home county of Winnebago, IL. After two weeks of preparation and working with the documents that I could access, I submitted the Freedom of Information Requests (FIOA) to the County. Turns out that while the law states that submitting FIOAs means you have the right to certain information, that doesn’t mean that the county will respond quickly or not spend weeks trying to find ways to deny your request.
So after a few days of doing well, minimal work, while waiting for the documents that never ended up coming while I was in the office, I took up a new job description of paralegal assistant. While I still continued to work on my project, I now worked on client files, helping with U-Visa filings, Deferred Action applications, and various other paralegal tasks. I learned that there was much more to immigration law than the large memos and briefs the attorneys worked on; much of the work I did ended up being used as part of an application, something that took a while to get used to. It was definitely an unexpected change, but my supervisor ensured that I had plenty to do and was still completing the learning goals we had gone through together. I ended up learning so much more than expected in a different but important field.
It’s hard to exactly pinpoint a main or most important thing that I’ve learned this summer. I have realized how fortunate I am to have had hands on experience in a law firm as an undergrad and to have witnessed what a relaxed and friendly but experienced and hard-working law firm environment looks like. Many of my ideas about what practicing law requires or looks like were also proven false. I saw firsthand how messy immigration law really is, something that has been kept well hidden from the general public and affects more people than I could have imagined.
Most importantly perhaps, this internship, which I could accept because of the SIGP grant, provided me with a shining example of what a good internship should look like. It should be in a field you are passionate about, require hard work and dedication, come with confusion and frustration, show you how much you still have to learn, and finally help you learn more about yourself and the type of work you would like to do in the future. For me, this summer has solidified my interest in pursuing law school, and i have both my internship at Dady & Hoffmann, LLC and my SIGP grant to thank.
About the NU Intern Blogger Program
This summer, over 50 Northwestern University students will be sharing stories about what they are experiencing at their internships from across the country and internationally. Each week new students will share an inside look at what it means to be an intern. Please contact Betsy Gill, Assistant Director, Internship Services if you have any questions.