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Legal Work Experience: New York

In this blog, Sacha details her work experience at a prestigious law firm in New York City.

I always knew that I wanted to study law. I was born in Strasbourg (France) and I went to school there. In secondary school, teachers called me ‘the advocate’ as I was always defending my classmates. During my childhood, inequalities and injustices affected me a lot and I wanted to fight for worthy causes. After High School, I went to college to study law.

I had very good marks in my first two years. However, studying at university is quite theoretical and I wanted to have a more concrete idea of a lawyer’s career.

New York
“I applied speculatively for an internship to the fifty most famous law firms in New York”

Before my internship, I went to New York twice. Each time, I visited the city for a couple of days as a tourist. I fell in love with the atmosphere of the city. Living there as a New Yorker, even just for few weeks, was a kind of dream for me. As a consequence, I decided to take my chance in the Big Apple. In the winter, I applied speculatively for an internship to the fifty most famous law firms in New York. It was an ambitious aspiration at the age of 19.

I received several negative responses until I received this email from a man I’ll call Jeff. Jeff is associated with another lawyer and they run one of the most renowned law firms in New York. He told me that he wanted to give me a chance and that he would be glad to have me at his side during few weeks. He became my internship tutor.

I spent a month as a trainee in Jeff’s law firm. Of course, it was an unpaid internship. Unfortunately, NYC is a very expensive city so before my departure, I worked for two months to fund my project. The law firm, composed of 30 lawyers, is mainly specialised in corporate law in general (for example, company law, landlord/tenant and bankruptcy) but sometimes they deal with criminal cases too.

I remember the first day I arrived at the office: an old man was waiting for me at the entrance desk. His name was Ira, a 72-year-old lawyer still working part-time for the company. He introduced me to the staff and showed me around the premises.

Before entering Jeff’s office, Ira told me: “You have to know one thing: lawyers are New York’s kings”. I understood what he meant, and admired that huge office made of marble with an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline. The office was located in Borough Hall on the fiftieth floor of the biggest building in Brooklyn. Borough Hall is the ‘legal district’ of New York; the majority of Courts and law firms are part of this neighbourhood.

My internship was a day-by-day experience. Most of the time, I was attending hearings of cases with different lawyers at our firm. Before the hearing, the lawyers explained me the facts and their argument. Coming back from Court, I had to write a report on each case for Jeff. It was a way for him to have an overview of the work of the other lawyers of his company.

It was very interesting to learn about the American legal system, which was brand new for me. In this respect, I wrote a final report comparing the French and the American system. I assisted to several corporate law cases and one murder case, which took a week. Jeff even brought me on one of the most important cases of his career at the New York County Supreme Court.

This experience was very rewarding for me. First of all, I improved my English and I learned about a worldwide legal system. In addition to this, it helped me to choose my vocation in law. I am sure that I don’t want to work in company law as the lawyer is only dealing with representatives of the company and commissions. As they’re representing a legal person, they never meet their client. I need a human contact to be completely devoted to a case. Now, I know that as a future lawyer, I would like to specialise in the Human Rights field.

Moreover, this internship was a wonderful lifetime experience and an asset on my CV, which played an important role in the acceptance of my application to study abroad at the prestigious King’s College London.

Words: Sacha Partouche

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