The BBA’s Summer Jobs Program finished off with an exciting final week. On Wednesday, August 21, the Summer Jobs students participated in “Exploring Legal Careers,” a speed networking event designed to help them consider the various career paths open to them within the legal profession. In seven rounds of 15 minutes each, the students had the opportunity to meet with Manisha Bhatt, a senior staff attorney in the Family Law Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services; Karen Castaneda, an attorney for the Boston Public Schools’ Legal Advisors Office at the Office of the Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston; Sam Faisal, a law student at Suffolk University Law School; Nigel Long, Corporate Counsel for Liberty Mutual; Mikerline Paul, a paralegal at the Volunteer Lawyers Project; Walter Rodriguez, an associate at Locke Lord LLP; and Christina Simpson of The Law Office of Christina Simpson, Esq. The students greatly enjoyed meeting with attorneys and legal professionals from a wide range of practice settings, and asked lots of questions about the speakers’ career paths and the advice they have for young people interested in the legal profession.
The next day, the students closed out the summer with the Summer Jobs Celebration, where the students, their colleagues, and their families celebrated the students’ accomplishments with a speaking program and reception. The program started with BBA President-Elect Christine Netski discussing the history of the Summer Jobs Program, which started in 1993 when now-retired Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Sandra Lynch, was a partner at Foley Hoag and the President of the BBA. She spearheaded the program in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, and to-date the program has facilitated summer internships in legal offices for hundreds of Boston high school students.
The audience then heard from student speaker Shakira Jean, a rising junior who interned at the Volunteer Lawyers Project this summer. Shakira discussed the challenges and rewards of working in a legal services office, and talked about how using empathy to put herself in the shoes of clients facing difficult situations had been an important skill set during her summer work. She ended her speech by saying, “If I have the opportunity to be able to do something about [unfairness in the justice system], then I’m going to take it. I just want to be there to make our justice system better and bring justice to people who may not have access to it.”
Following Shakira’s remarks, the students heard from Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who represents Boston’s District 1. Councilor Edwards discussed her own journey into the legal profession, community organizing, and city government. She noted that she was the first attorney in her family and discussed the challenges she faced in feeling out of place during her time in law school, saying “Statistics would have put me in a different place than where I am right now… I didn’t know any lawyers… I felt like I had to conform.”
However, she talked about the shift that she made into community organizing after the 2008 recession, and how she felt that her career only truly came together when she was able to be her authentic self. She pointed to the legal protections for domestic workers that she helped to pass in her time as a community organizer, saying, “We had no money [for that advocacy work]… We did that being unapologetically ourselves, with the talents that we have.”
She also spoke about her campaign to be a Boston City Councilor, noting that her seat had never before been held by a person of color, and only by one other woman. However, she pointed to the strengths that she was able to bring to the table – and win the campaign on – by being her true self, saying that the Portuguese and Spanish language skills she gained as a community organizer; her background in a military family; and her commitment to knocking on doors and talking face-to-face with members of the community, all helped her connect with voters. She said, “All those ‘nos’ [that we heard], we used to run our campaign… I was doing things differently. And I could only do it because I was doing it as myself.” She encouraged the students to take this advice to heart, in whatever career paths they pursue, saying, “You can’t win without being your true self. The person who you’re faking will win – but not you.”
Following these inspiring remarks by Councilor Edwards, the students and their guests headed upstairs for some refreshments to celebrate the end of a successful summer!
Thank you to each law office that hired a student intern through the program, to our partners at the Private Industry Council and the Mayor’s Office, and, of course, to the 36 students who dedicated themselves to learning about the legal profession this summer – this program would not be possible without you!