Campus News

Law school summer fellowships offer learning opportunities

A lanyard cord with the word, U. S. Attoney's Office/WDNY" laying across a legal paper. .

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published August 14, 2020

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“I may not be getting the in-person face to face that I was expecting in my many daydreams, but one thing I can confidently say is that this summer has still been full of growth and development for me. ”
Alexander Sanchez, Class of 2022
School of Law

The blog titles tell it best. They are direct, honest and clear about their message.

“When the World is Ending, but Your Summer Internship Is Not: A Lesson in Resiliency,” Samantha Gier, ’22, called her entry.

“From Courthouses to Cat Coworkers” is the entry written by Lizzy Vinal, ’22. “Remote Internships My 1L Summer.”

“The Wild Twist That Is My First Summer after 1L Year” is how Alexander Sanchez, ’22, titled his entry.

Samantha Gier pictured standing in front of the XX building.

Samantha Gier poses outside the Robert H. Jackson federal courthouse, where she worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

All come from #UBLawResponds, a School of Law blog “helping people navigate the legal system during a time of crisis.” They were written by students who, after finishing their first or second year, took part in summer fellowships, which school officials call “critical to launching a law student's legal career.”

The first summer job during law school is often a future attorney’s entry into the professional legal community, where they build skills and a network. These jobs provide the students opportunities to advocate for justice at non-profit organizations or government agencies, or pursue prestigious judicial clerkships — positions that are typically unpaid.

“The School of Law’s summer fellowships achieve two central parts of our mission,” says Kim Diana Connolly, professor and vice dean for advocacy and experiential learning, who helps coordinate the team that makes the fellowships possible.

“The fellowships offer students learning opportunities where they directly experience lawyering responsibilities, while at the same time providing talented help to community partners, courts and governmental offices working in the public interest.”

Alexander Sanchez working remotely during his fellowship.

Alexander Sanchez worked remotely for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Including every first-year student

Since 1993, fundraising by the Buffalo Public Interest Law Program and donor-funded fellowships have helped cover summer living expenses for dozens of law students each year. Still, officials say more funding is needed, especially for first-year students. In 2018, 40% of the first-year class would have benefitted from a fellowship if additional funds were available.

To meet that need, Dean Aviva Abramovsky launched an initiative to secure financial support for that critical first summer. The goal: to find a way that all first-year law students interested in an unpaid summer position could get a jump-start on their legal careers and position them for success.

As a result, 34 first-year students received aid to take part in a summer fellowship — an increase over each of the previous two years.  A total of 46 fellowships were awarded this summer.

“We are very proud of our summer fellowship program supported by the generous donations of many of our alumni and friends, as well as the proceeds of our annual BPILP Auction,” says Abramovsky. “Our summer fellows are given the opportunity to do meaningful legal work that prepares them with the skills they need to be exceptional advocates. By investing in our students, our alumni and friends are investing in our community and in the future of our legal profession.”

Connolly says the postings on #UBLawResponds demonstrate that the UB Law Summer Fellows achieved their goals.

“They also demonstrate enormous resiliency in the face of the coronavirus pandemic,” Connolly says.

‘Who am I to complain?’

Lizzy Vinal worked from home.

Lizzy Vinal worked in the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo Attorneys for Children Unit, and the Family Justice Center of Erie County.

Vinal wrote about the sudden switch from her excitement of working downtown to an email she got on her birthday changing all her plans.

”I thought this summer could never live up to my expectations and that I would not get nearly as much out of the experience as I would in-person,” wrote Vinal, recipient of the Professor Suzanne Tomkins ’92 Women, Children & Social Justice Advocacy Fellowship. She was placed in the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo Attorneys for Children Unit, and the Family Justice Center of Erie County.

“Fortunately, I was wrong. While I miss being able to talk face to face with people, working with clients remotely, over the phone and email has created a challenge that is exciting to overcome. Since I cannot observe attorneys in court, I have the opportunity to find advice and relationships that I might not normally have found.”

“I may be doing work in my satin PJs sometimes instead of a suit,” wrote Sanchez, recipient of the Mary J. Dowd ’80 Fellowship, who worked remotely for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. “But who am I to complain about that? I may not be getting the in-person face to face that I was expecting in my many daydreams, but one thing I can confidently say is that this summer has still been full of growth and development for me.”

Gier received the Dean’s Advisory Council Summer Fellowship. She worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York. After the first day of her internship, Gier learned her fiancé’s best friend — the man who was going to be best man at their wedding — had been killed in a plane crash.

 “The darkness immediately poured over us and while all I wanted to do was be home and be present for James, my fiancé, I also knew I still had a job to do and I needed to do it well.

“Now, six weeks later, I have drafted motions, compiled search warrants, edited affidavits and researched more than I ever have before. While I could not have accomplished these tasks without the researching and writing lessons learned in LAWR, the real lesson that helped me accomplish these tasks was resiliency.”

A complete list of the 2020 Summer Fellows can be found online.
For information on the fellowship program, contact Karen Kaczmarski, vice dean for advancement, at 716-645-6429 or krkacz@buffalo.edu.