Tag Archives: intern

Watching Oral Arguments

One of the former interns at the Foundation where I work swung by today to look up some paperwork. She is also a 3L and her article is also getting published by the Wisconsin Law Review this semester. She took over for me as president at the Federalist Society. We have a lot in common. 

Our boss (former boss, in her case) recently did an oral argument before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and someone in the office tipped us off that we could watch it on WisconsinEye. So we did. It was quite eye-opening. To be perfectly blunt, we were both shocked at how poorly some of the oral arguments went. (Not our boss, of course. He was great.) But some of the other presenters routinely interrupted the justices, didn’t know the answer to basic questions, or took a condescending tone when explaining the law. 

It was a very crystallizing moment for me. Not just because my friend and I realized ‘hey, even we could do that!’ But sitting there, talking to my friend about our upcoming publications, watching an oral argument about a brief we both helped write, I realized…I finally feel like a 3L. It isn’t that I’m a full-fledged attorney yet. But in a year I will be. 

Maybe someday my friend and I will argue before the Wisconsin Supreme Court together. Or even sit on the court. Or maybe we will go our opposite ways and totally lose contact. But for a moment, I did not feel like we were watching as clueless students, only half sure of what was going on. We watched as colleagues, knowledgeable and passionate about the law, discussing the strengths and weaknesses of our boss’s presentation. (I mean, what weaknesses? There were no weaknesses.) And I am looking forward to more of that. I realized…

There is a light at the end of this law school tunnel! 

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Biking Without Wheels And Other Poor Analogies

As previously noted, I love where I work. I love the chance to put into practice the things I’m learning in law school. Sometimes, however, work starts putting into practice things I haven’t learned yet and it gets confusing. The problem is, usually I don’t know what I don’t know. I will read hundreds of pages at work and feel like something is eluding me, but feel uncertain what. Then I  do my reading for class the next day and discover that all the reading I’ve been doing is about the delegation doctrine or riparian rights or some other fairly basic legal theory I haven’t been introduced to yet.

The problem is, I’ve been reading, say, textualist critiques of legislative delegation but have no idea what delegation even means, much less legislative delegation. Then I show up to class and discover there are some very foundational principles – or building blocks – that suddenly puts everything in perspective.

It feels a bit liking attempting calculus when you haven’t finished algebra. (But maybe less extreme.) Or like riding a bicycle before you’ve put wheels on the bike. 

I can’t tell you what a rush it is, though, when everything comes together. Maybe I’ve been using the wrong analogies and it is like the story of the blind men and the elephant. I’ve been groping at a tale thinking it was a rope only to gain sight and realize how much more there is to it. Elephants are super exciting! 

In some ways, the experience is both a blessing and a curse. I’m in the dark until I have my eureka moment, but when I have that moment I suddenly am vastly more educated than most novices. I worry it makes me annoying in class. But on the flip side, I always have something to say! 


Why I Make Time For An Internship

“Nerd,” chortles my boss, as I gush about my classes this coming semester. “Who is excited about administrative law?”

He is, for one. His words hold no sting. Administrative law is his passion. Any enthusiasm I show pales in comparison to the years he has poured into crafting laws and writing briefs.

Unlike last January, when I started working for him enthusiastically but wholly ignorant, I now know our cases and the arguments used to support them. Or at least, I think I do. My boss loads me down with easily a thousand pages of new cases and law review articles to read to catch me up to speed. Even with my speed-reading ability, this is going to take a while. But I don’t mind.

I love it. I love the mountain of paperwork and the uncharted arguments. I love overcoming my ignorance. I love the dense sentences that take three or four reads to understand. I love it because when I do understand, a whole new world opens before me. I learn why this topic matters. I learn to care.

I love it because I truly learn, a feeling I do not get from my classes at law school. Perhaps it is the institutional nature of school. Perhaps it is the textbooks with their carefully edited cases. Perhaps it is simply the difference between studying a topic in breadth versus in depth. I do not know.

What I do know is that if a professor tried to give me this much reading, I would howl in despair. My boss does it, and I’m delighted.

That’s why I find the time for an internship, for a chance to get out of the law school. If my world only revolved around school and extra-curricular activities, I think I would go insane. Law school may educate me, but it does not get my blood boiling. Working in the real world does. Knowing what I am doing matters does. Working with people who love their work does. It is a reminder of why I am in law school; a shove to get through the next day, the next week, the next year.

It is a reminder that this is what I get to do when I graduate. This is what makes it all worth it.

 


Unpacking the Summer

At the end of my adventures in Idaho last summer, I wrote a blog post where I talked about finding a new side of myself. I, bookworm and indoor aficionado,  learned to sleep under the stars, hike for fun, and white water raft. Part of the appeal of going to Colorado this past summer was the idea of further developing this new side of myself. 

And in a way, it was. I camped. I hiked. I white water rafted. (It is a lot more fun without the raft of paranoid middle school girls.) 

Image may contain: sky, mountain, cloud, tree, outdoor and nature

Yet looking back, I would not say this was a summer of discovery. Rather, it became something more precious: a summer of remembering. 

Image may contain: 13 people, including Heather Sherrill, Shelby Hoovler, Alexavier Xue, Abby Welch, Haylee O'Hearn, Kathleen Mattina, Caroline Adams and Amy Buchmeyer, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

Law school is stressful. It is a melting pot of emotions and nuances and feeling like a failure. I emerged war-torn and exhausted. Going to Colorado felt like a terrible idea. As the weeks leading up to my departure became days, I kept wondering if Young Life would really would miss me too much if I just…didn’t go? After all, they’d told me there were two legal interns. Maybe they didn’t need me?

Image may contain: Amy Buchmeyer, smiling, plant, sky, tree, cloud and outdoor

I knew better than to bail last minute, though, so I got on my plane, read 4 books, and started a truly amazing internship. What made it amazing? 

  • I had work that mattered and that I loved. 
  • I worked with incredible people who made me feel loved. 
  • I lived with 8, wonderful, sometimes crazy women who loved me and took the time to let me know it. 
  • I participated in an internship program that provided mentors, speakers, and a small group that all poured into me and left me feeling…you got it, loved
  • Finally, I got hour after luxurious hour to read and think and be alone, to truly love myself. 

Image may contain: 13 people, including Liz Knepper, Andi Seaton, Kathleen Mattina, Haylee O'Hearn, Shelby Hoovler, Alexavier Xue, Caroline Adams, Heather Sherrill, Amy Buchmeyer and 3 others, people smiling, people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

The theme you should notice is that I was spoiled this summer. I was spoiled because people treated me like someone remarkable, someone smarter and funnier and more pulled together than I ever felt. They made sure to invite me to all their activities and never took offense when I declined to instead stay home and read. I always felt included but never pressured. And considering how many times I turned them down to read, that is saying something. 

Yet while I felt beloved for my reading and bug-killing abilities, I also felt the love did not stem from my personal attributes. I was surrounded by God-loving people whose love for each other stemmed from that love for God. Certain personalities might mix better and certain skills be more praise worthy, but at the end of the day, those things mattered less than the fact that each intern represented someone loved by God and thus worthy of love.

Image may contain: Kathleen Mattina and Amy Buchmeyer, people smiling, outdoor and nature

I was spoiled this summer because I felt unconditionally loved. I was spoiled because I got to do work that interested and excited me. I was spoiled because I got to live in the incredibly beautiful mountains with no humidity. 

I called this a summer of remembering. Why? Because it was a summer of remembering that my worth is not in what I do, or where I live, or what grades I get. It was a summer of remembering who I am when not stressed, not busy, and not networking. A summer of just being…me. Was it hard sometimes? Oh, you bet. But for all that, it was a summer beyond my expectations. 

The thing I want to take away, the thing I need to take away, is that this path wasn’t the most natural, the most prestigious, or even the most sensible. But in the end, it was the most fulfilling. God knew what He was doing even when (especially when) I doubted the most. 

Image may contain: 15 people, including Haylee O'Hearn, Heather Sherrill, Shelby Hoovler, Alexavier Xue, Caroline Adams, Amy Buchmeyer, John Sivils and Abby Welch, people smiling, people standing, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature

 

(And because I couldn’t find the right place for it in this post, extra grateful shout-out to my awesome fellow legal intern, John, who now knows a lot more about Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, public sector labor law unions, and agency deference than he ever could have wanted, but who always let me interrupt him and patiently listened while I rambled away. Thank you.)


Intern Status

“Have fun this weekend!” says my fellow intern.

“I will!” I say. “But first I need to figure out how to take off my intern hat and put on my adult hat!”

She looks bemused and I mentally kick myself. Of course an intern can be an adult. She is an adult. I am an adult, regardless of title. But it feels different.

This weekend I am headed to Washington D.C. to attend the Federalist Society Student Leadership Conference. I am thrilled for the opportunity and all the people I will get to meet.

Yet if I am honest, I can’t help contrasting this trip with many other visits to D.C. And I feel much less adult.

It is silly, stupid things that aren’t worth listing, but it all comes down to the contrast of traveling for work and traveling as a student to a student conference. The last time I traveled as a student was the summer 2014. In hard numbers, not that long ago. In Amy’s lifetime, forever.

While a poignant contrast for me, this feeling probably isn’t much more much than pre-travel angst. This weekend will be awesome!


The Unavoidable Internship: Suggestions From A Senior

Intern

I remember looking at internships freshman year and thinking… ‘wow, that’s impossible.’ The requirements included having previous internship experience, junior or senior status, and moving halfway across the country — all for an unpaid job. If all internships were that difficult to get, where did students find their initial intern experience? Who wanted to wait till junior or senior year? How could anyone afford to return to school in the fall if they weren’t getting paid? Yet everyone said, especially for my field of interest, internships were a must.

Over the past four years, I have worked around 11 different jobs, 3 of them specifically “internships.” While I am by no means an expert, I have picked up a thing or two so here are 9 general tips I have about internships:

  1.  If it is unpaid, tread with care.

This is one of my favorite pieces of advice from Charles Murray, author of A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead (a book you should buy if you haven’t already.) If a company really considers the position vital, they will pay someone to do it. Unpaid internships often imply unnecessary jobs because the market doesn’t necessitate their existence. Chance are, the job will not be worth your time because it isn’t worth the company’s investment. A real job earning real money offers many more advantages for challenge and character growth, even if the title reflects a less glamorous position.

There may be exceptions to the rule, especially if you are trying to network in a specific company, or are padding a resume. But generally, go where they pay, because that means they need you.

  1. Internships provide unique learning opportunities. Use them!

An internship can give you an exclusive look at the inner workings of a company and offer a front row view of what does and doesn’t work. You can gain valuable experience using your “intern status” to meet people up and down the leadership ladder. When I interned for Human Resources, my first “office” was right next to the Vice President of the company! I had access to Lunch-n-Learns, where I met engineers, accountants, and project managers. I started at a branch office and got to know the men on the ground.

An intern comes to learn, so it is a great opportunity to ask questions: people expect it! Get to know the company even if it isn’t where you plan on staying long term. The attributes that make a company or a leader successful overlap in various occupations and fields. The idea works in reverse as well: poor leadership or a bad company policy shows, and you will notice what needs to be changed. You can take this is wisdom with you to other jobs. Identifying those attributes will benefit you wherever you go.

  1. It doesn’t have to be in your field of interest.

While interning with a company you want to work for when you graduate is a great opportunity, it isn’t always available. Though “internship experience, ANY internship experience” might not be the best plan, an openness to different fields provides some unique opportunities. My first two internships were with a company of electricians. Surrounded by fellow interns with degrees in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, my Politics and Government/Criminal Justice double major stood out like a sore thumb. How did pre-law transfer to the trades? A lot smoother than I expected. During my time there, I absorbed information on unions, safety classes, and light fixtures. I learned about biding a job, billing a company, and handling Affirmative Action paperwork. I gained practical, real-world knowledge that has given me a relationship with people in an area I would have known nothing about if I had stuck to my “field” of law/politics. If nothing else, the experience developed me as a person. It is worth looking off the beaten path, especially for your first few internships.

  1. Find where your connections work.

Internships, like job hunting, involves networking. It takes practice. Where do your friends and family members work?  Where do your friends’ parents work? Instead of starting with a company, it might help to start with your connections. I got the job in the trades because of my uncle. I gained my third internship through someone I volunteered with in high school. Every job I have had since working in the Sam’s Club bakery after my freshman year came from knowing someone. Use the people in your life!

  1. Be open to relocating, but don’t be stupid.

New places can be lots of fun. I moved to college in Tennessee without knowing anyone. The same happened during my experience studying abroad in England. If you can fight the homesickness, openness to adventure can lead to fabulous places. Use those connections. Do you have an aunt who could house you for a summer in a different city? Do you have a friend who has extra room in her off-campus living arrangements? Look for internships there. It could be fun and you will be doubly challenged.

However, remember that you are still in college. It may seem glamorous to move across the country for an internship somewhere, but first weigh the costs and benefits carefully. A less exciting but more practical internship could allow you to live at home and save money. There will be opportunities for new places once you graduate.

  1. Don’t think in terms of the unattainable.

A dream cannot become a reality unless you walk towards it. Practically, my semester abroad should never have happened. I could not afford it. Family, friends, and professors went out of their way to make it happen, but first I had to begin the process. I had to learn about the program, and apply. I had to explain what I needed and request financial support. In the end it worked out, but only after I took the first step.

A specific thing, like an internship or studying abroad, may seem impossible, but it can never become possible if you don’t work towards it. So dream crazy dreams! Set goals. Don’t limit yourself. Right now you might not be qualified, but discover what it would take to become qualified. Work with your connections. Don’t limit yourself because of external hindrances. With hard work and planning, they can be overcome.

  1. Develop a work ethic.

I know this seems rather self-evident, but how you approach a job makes a difference. There will tasks you really dislike doing, but you will have to do them anyway. If you can push through those tasks with a good attitude, it shows. It will show character to your bosses and co-workers, even if they never mention it. If nothing else, you will know what you can accomplish in less-than-favored circumstances.

Also, be willing to do what is needed of you. Take out the garbage, shred the papers, staple the documents. It isn’t glamorous, I know. As an intern, you probably won’t be doing anything that fabulous or ground breaking, but if you learn to work hard and do the little things well, it will transfer over to the big things. When I worked in HR, I handled a lot of paperwork. I am not a detail-person. I quickly grew bored with endless Affirmative Action forms. However, I learned to work quickly and persistently. I enjoyed my work as a Field Director with AFP last year, but there were days when I was exhausted. The attitude I had learned from working in HR kept me going. Stick with it when the work is hard. A job well done makes the effort worth it.

  1. Have fun!

You have the job for a summer. It isn’t a lifetime commitment. Use this season to explore! What do you like doing? What do you hate? Try something new. While this isn’t always possible if you need a consistent, well-paying job (because…. you know, college kid), there are still many ways to discover new things. Get to know your coworkers. Try different fields and companies. Learn what works for you. Do you like order, or prefer making your own rules? Do you want to stay behind the desk, or get your hands dirty? Do you want a specific job description, or to create the position as you go? An internship provides a taste of the professional world with comparatively short-term commitments.

  1. Take internships seriously, but not too seriously.

There are many factors to getting a job, and a positive internship experience can be one of them. However, it isn’t the only thing. Do not stress about getting the perfect internship with the perfect company. When you do get an internship, learn from it. Work hard. Focus on developing your character. Make connections and use them to your benefit. Enjoy it as an end as well as a means to an end. Be willing to try new things. Give your passions and talents a go and spend those summers developing the person you are becoming! That will stick with you for the rest of your life.