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What Are Law School Summer Fellowships Really Like?
Trevor Meagher ’20, 2018 Summer Fellow, Murtha Cullina

Summer fellowships are invaluable opportunities to get hands-on experience in law school. But what are they really like? Here, law students share their summer fellowship experiences: where they worked, what they did, and all they learned about real-world legal practice.

Getting real-world experience is paramount in law school.

It’s critical to cementing your understanding of class material, exploring legal fields that interest you, and, ultimately, getting the experience you need to get a job after you graduate. That’s why there’s a huge variety of opportunities to get hands-on experience in law school. Summer fellowship positions—often indistinguishable from internships—are a great option. They’re often paid positions too (at New England Law, they’re always paid, because we offer a $3,500 stipend to all Summer Fellows).

Below you’ll find first-hand account from law students who had summer fellowships, including what their responsibilities were, where they worked, and what they learned.

Litigation: Stephanie Niles ’20

Stephanie-NilesSummer Fellowship Position: Legal Intern, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Undergraduate School: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Undergraduate Major: Legal Studies and Political Science, Minor in Sociology, Certificate in Criminal Justice

What did you do during your summer fellowship?

I was primarily working with the litigation department in-house as their only legal intern. Day to day, I spent a lot of time reading, doing research, and writing memos. I drafted a few corporate policies that were pretty exciting too! Some of them actually ended up on the president’s desk and will be rolled out company-wide.

I also made additions to the company Code of Conduct, making sure we were complying with employment law regulations, and I worked on the Internet and email review policy as well. For some of my more administrative tasks, I would set up meeting agendas or set appointments for the week.

During my summer fellowship, we did a lot of risk assessment, and I got to sit in on meetings and work with outside council. We were looking at client and patient engagement, so I participated in interviews with different members of the teams, like managers, and assistants to see how they're working with clients. A big part of that was making sure everyone was compliant with regulatory guidelines in terms of confidentiality. I got a total view of that process, and it was interesting to see the preventative measures in litigation.

Outside the 9-to-5 hours in the office, I also networked with the other attorneys and fellow law school students. I became a member of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, Boston Bar Association— and every other acronym you could imagine! As you attend those events, you get to know people. The Boston legal community is fairly small, and this summer fellowship gave me the opportunity to be in those rooms with people who can provide me with the knowledge, connections, and wealth of experience to prepare myself for the positions I want in the future. It was very exciting, and I learned a lot.

What are some of the most important lessons you learned?

My supervisor, Abim Thomas, was amazing. I ended up gaining not only a boss but a mentor in this role. One of the first things she said on my first day was that she wanted me to become the best lawyer possible. That manifested in lots of great constructive criticism—drafting, revising, and editing of my work. Because the details matter in any legal practice, and the sooner you learn how to pay attention to those details, the better. We also spent a lot of time making sure my writing was clear and concise.

How did you get your summer fellowship?

I found the position through New England Law’s Career Services Office and their Career Advising Network. I applied because I wanted to explore in-house litigation more. I have experience in a big law firm but I wanted to see what it was like inside a corporation.

After going on the interview, I learned most of the team were people of color. I wasn’t expecting that, but having worked with such a diverse team was very impactful. I wanted to get their input and learn from their experience and achievements.

I think it's very important to be exposed to diversity, whether it's diversity of culture, gender, even legal practice. We law students don't necessarily know what life as a lawyer is like until we get out there, and that can be quite scary. But sometimes getting advice from someone who looks like you or shares your background can be beneficial. It’s a feeling of “she's a successful lawyer—I can be too.”

What’s next for you and your legal career?

Next summer, I will be a summer associate at a law firm here in Boston. I'm still interested in litigation, but I want to get some transactional experience to see what that is like as well.

After graduation and passing the bar, I would like to join a law firm. Firms tend to have a lot of training resources, and it's an environment that I like. If that transitions to an in-house position at a business in a field that I'm interested in, that would be great!

What advice can you offer other law students in a summer fellowship?

Definitely get your name out there. Some of the most beneficial parts of my summer fellowship took place off the clock. You never know when you might meet someone and make a career connection.

Also, start looking for summer positions early! During your law school’s Thanksgiving break, when you're done Black Friday shopping or you’ve woken up from your turkey-induced coma, start applying. And apply for anything and everything, because any experience is good experience, and you never know what will resonate with you.

If you get a summer fellowship or other internship and you realize you don’t like the field, the environment, or even the general ethos, you’re one step closer to figuring out what it is you do like. So, don't limit yourself to what you think you want—really get out there and explore.

Finally, no matter where you end up in your summer fellowship, be open-minded, flexible, and willing to learn. Remember that nothing's beneath you. I mean, no one’s asking you to get coffee, but there are day-to-day things that go into being an attorney, and it's not all glamorous all the time. But you will learn and grow from it.

Business Law: Trevor Meagher ’20

Trevor-Meagher-what-are-law-school-summer-fellowships-likeSummer Fellowship Position: Summer Intern, Murtha Cullina
Undergraduate School: State University of New York College at Brockport
Undergraduate Major: English Language and Literature

What did you do during your summer fellowship?

I took a position at Murtha Cullina in Boston, a firm that covers everything from litigation to wills, estates, and trusts; real estate to corporate law; and more. There I assisted several attorneys, but I think I got a chance to work with almost everyone in the office at some point.

First thing in the morning, I would usually check to see if anyone emailed me with assignments overnight. These were primarily research projects, and I spent most of the time looking up the law, statutes, and details about certain cases. I would then compile my findings in a Word document or Excel spreadsheet—that definitely kept me busy.

Some of my favorite memories involved sitting in on depositions, just listening to the partners doing what they do best. The people were great and very helpful. I felt like I belonged there, and I was sad to go when the ten weeks ended!

What are some of the most important lessons you learned?

Murtha Cullina was very tight-knit, and everyone got along really well. There was a lot of pride in what they did there too, which I appreciated. I wouldn’t want to work at an organization that’s so large that you just get lost in the shuffle.

I really like that atmosphere of being able to get to know the people in the offices around you. That’s what my summer fellowship was like, and that’s part of why I chose New England Law too; I wanted a small school where you really could have a good relationship with the professors.

How did you get your summer fellowship?

I knew I wanted to stay in Boston for the summer, and searching for summer fellowships was a great way to connect with potential employers. After interviewing at Murtha Cullina, I knew it was where I wanted to be for my fellowship, so I jumped at the opportunity when they offered me the position.

What’s next for you and your legal career?

Going into the summer, I had an inkling of the type of law I wanted to focus on: a business/corporate type of law. Doing the fellowship really solidified that for me. I was interested in what I was doing, I enjoyed doing it, and I learned so much about Massachusetts rules and regulations surrounding businesses and bankruptcies. So in the future I definitely see myself in the corporate world at a small or medium-sized firm, where everybody knows each other and you're not just another cog in the wheel.

Right now I’m doing New England Law’s in-house public interest law clinic and I'm enjoying it. But it is almost the exact opposite of what I did this summer, so it's interesting to see the two different sides of the legal field.

What advice can you offer other law students in a summer fellowship?

When you’re looking for summer fellowship positions, I recommend being a little choosy. I know some people who were worried about not having a summer position and kind of settled. I took the time to really research my summer fellowship and make sure it was something I truly wanted to do. I think that helped me in the long run because I was able to make the most of the experience.

Overall, if you have the opportunity to do a summer fellowship in law school, just do it. Put your all into it, and don't be afraid to ask for more challenging work. You will make connections and get your foot in the door.

Sport and Entertainment Law: Crystal Cascante ’20

Crystal-CascanteSummer Fellowship Position: Legal Intern, Blue Sky Sports & Entertainment
Undergraduate School: University of Florida
Undergraduate Major: Criminology

What did you do during your summer fellowship?

As an intern working in sport and entertainment law, I frequently drafted and redlined athlete appearance contracts, endorsements agreements, and memorabilia agreements. I also conducted legal research for various projects, including state and federal regulations on social media advertisements. 

How did you get your summer fellowship?

In October of 2017, the founder of Blue Sky Sports & Entertainment, Kim Zayotti, was invited to speak during one of my Lawyering Experience classes [a professional development course required of all New England Law | Boston students].

I happened to meet her in the elevator beforehand, where I introduced myself, and we spoke until we reached the lecture hall. After her talk about how to stand out on LinkedIn and network online, I updated my LinkedIn profile and sent her a message. She asked me to email her my résumé and cover letter, and we kept in touch until my interview the following February. 

What are some of the most important lessons you learned?

Specifically, I learned to always ask "What if?" when completing my legal work. The idea is to work through all possible scenarios, so you cover all your bases! Overall, I learned to take advantage of every possible learning opportunity and to be open-minded about my work as a legal intern. On a more personal note, I also discovered that I am open to working at smaller firms or companies, rather than only focusing on positions at larger organizations. 

What’s next for you and your legal career?

I look forward to working at a company where my tasks will vary every day, and where I am frequently challenged with new ideas and projects. The sports and entertainment industry is very fast-paced, which is exciting to me!

What advice can you offer other law students in a summer fellowship?

Once you leave your front door, treat every encounter like an interview. You never know who you are going to meet, where you will meet them, who they may know, and if they'd be willing to help you.  

Health Law: Catherine Pepe ’20

Cat-Peper-what-are-law-school-summer-fellowships-likeSummer Fellowship Position: Summer Legal Fellow, South Shore Health System
Undergraduate School: Roger Williams University
Undergraduate Major: Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration

What did you do during your summer fellowship?

While at South Shore Health System (SSHS) I was actively involved in drafting health care–related contracts, including hospital vendor agreements, provider agreements, and Business Associate Agreements. I spent a great deal of time researching and providing confidential memorandums to be distributed to senior leadership to advise on compliance issues regarding Massachusetts Scope of Practice, fraud and abuse, and anti-kickback stark/self-referral to ensure hospital procedure was in best practice.

I worked directly with the Chief Compliance Officer to revise compliance policies, including the SSHS Handcuff & Restraint Policy, and advised with the legal department on a commercial net lease for a town 911 contract. I also distributed a companywide memo regarding the Emergency Medical Services Restocking Agreement with the Department of Pharmacy Services.

What are some of the most important lessons you learned?

My summer fellowship experience was so valuable in large part because of the great deal of responsibility I was given from the start. My supervisor entrusted me with substantive tasks, and I was asked to advise and encouraged to assess critical projects with the team.

I learned many valuable lessons throughout my summer fellowship at SSHS, but above all, I developed confidence. SSHS provides its fellows with meaningful and important tasks that most of the time I handled independently and on my own initiative, with the help and guidance of supervisors if needed.

How did you get your summer fellowship?

I found my summer fellowship position through the law school’s job website (the Career Advising Network).

What’s next for you and your legal career?

In the future, I hope to play an integral role in a Massachusetts hospital’s legal department. I would love the opportunity to grow and develop in this fast-paced environment. I also plan to incorporate pro bono work into my career, because giving back is very important to me.

My role at SSHS has had a huge impact on my career trajectory. First, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work in a health care setting, as my primary interest is health law. I learned basic principles of health care and hospital law that I will carry with me to future endeavors in the field. I am especially lucky that in my role at SSHS I worked for both the legal department and compliance department. Given the opportunity to learn from both angles, my position was multifaceted, which will help tremendously with my career prospects after law school.

What advice can you offer other law students in a summer fellowship?

For students considering the Summer Fellowship Program at New England Law, apply! Not only did I learn valuable skills pertinent to my area of legal interest, but I worked with wonderful people who I’m still in touch with today.

Taking advantage of summer fellowship opportunities in law school helps expose students to the practical aspects of law. It feels good to step into a professional legal position.

Learn more about the one-of-a-kind Summer Fellowship Program at New England Law | Boston.