SVUDL debater Sofia Funk, a student at Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School, recently completed a summer internship for high school students interested in public interest law and serving the San Jose community. In partnership with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, the SVUDL internship program is only one week long, but it makes a lasting impact for a lifetime.
What’s the exciting week look like?
The SVUDL student accompanies Law Foundation attorneys to court hearings and trainings. The student also has the opportunity to interact with social workers, community workers, and intake managers.
Sofia had the opportunity to obtain a broad overview of Law Foundation advocacy work and to learn what a typical day is like in the life of a legal services employee.
Sofia found her week to be fun, rewarding and educational. Interacting and working with over a dozen different attorneys, social workers, administrative staff, Sofia shared these aspects of her experience:
Q. What surprised you about your experience?
A. One aspect that surprised me about my internship was the different people that come together to provide services. It's not just attorneys. There are social workers, administrators, intake teams, volunteers, and so many people who collaborate to help clients. This experience really opened my eyes to the different ways I can get involved in public interest law, as an attorney or otherwise. I also shadowed several people through trainings and client meetings. Each day, I met with a different staff member of an area of the Law Foundation, allowing me a wide range of informational experiences.
Q. Did it make you think about becoming a lawyer?
A. Before doing this internship, I was very unsure about whether law was the right path for me. I envisioned working in a corporate environment for long hours every day and hating my job. But from what I saw, everyone loved the work they were doing. Work-life balance is definitely a priority. This internship introduced me to an area of law that is devoted to helping people, and really piqued my interest in public interest law.
Q. What was one of your favorite experiences this summer?
A. One of the most interesting things I did at my internship was meet with different professionals. The Law Foundation set up informational meetings with attorneys, social workers, and administrators from different departments. I got the chance to learn about several areas of public interest law. For example, one attorney talked to me about education law, which I had never heard of before! It was a great learning experience, and everyone presented their areas of expertise in very interesting ways.
Q. What did you find to be the nexus between debate and law?
A. Debate teaches a lot of skills that are helpful when going into law. Public speaking, research, and persuasiveness are some of the more obvious skills, but debate also teaches things like crafting an argument for specific types of judges. One attorney I spoke with talked about getting to know judges and their judging styles so that they know how they should present their argument in court for maximum effectiveness. This is exactly what we do in debate!
Q. Did you face any challenges?
A. The most challenging aspect for me about the internship was absorbing all of the information. I learned so much and took pages and pages of notes, but I feel like since there was so much information, I may have missed some things.
Q. What advice do you have for others considering this opportunity for next summer?
A. For those thinking about doing this internship next year, know that it comes highly recommended! I would recommend other students apply for this internship even if they aren’t sure if they want to study law for two main reasons.
First, it offers the opportunity to see the day-to-day work of a public interest attorney. This was very helpful for me because it clarified many of the misconceptions I had about law. For example, I learned that depending on the field of law you specialize in, most of your day could be spent filing paperwork!
Second, interning at the Law Foundation provides insight into not only law, but other fields as well, such as social work and administration. It was very interesting to see how different professions intersected to help provide legal services to clients. The Law Foundation is made up of more than just attorneys!
Q. Any other advice?
A. Be ready to take notes and speak with a lot of people every day. Don't be afraid to ask for a break if you need one. But the most important thing to remember is to ask all of the questions that you can think of during the internship.
This internship offers the opportunity to meet with several professionals. Take advantage of the experience to the fullest extent possible! Ask about their educational journey and what led them to their current career. Ask for any advice they may have as you continue your own educational journey! Everyone you'll speak with will be very friendly and open to have a conversation. There is a lot of advice to be had, even if you ultimately decide not to go to law school.
A Symbiotic Week
The staff found that they received as much back from Sofia as they did in supporting her experience:
Education Attorney Julia Souza found Sofia to be an absolute joy to work with and was especially impressed by how knowledgeable she was about the social justice issues that are integral to the work.
LACY Directing Attorney Andrew Cain recalled that Sofia showed an eagerness to learn and asked very appropriate questions as she was being exposed to many different areas of the law.
Supervising Attorney Alexis Moody noted that Sofia’s positive attitude reverberated throughout the office.
Intake Specialist Christine Nguyen observed that Sofia has a genuine interest in the public and in the community.
Housing Supervising Attorney Brandon Lawrence found Sofia to be poised, well-spoken and very inquisitive. She was very adaptable to the unpredictable nature of the housing court’s schedule.
Clearly, the summer internship was a fantastic experience for everyone involved. We look forward to next summer!