Over the course of two seminars, our Summer Jobs interns rounded out the real-world experience from work with a financial literacy program designed to provide guidance as they begin to make impactful financial decisions.
Molly Sharon (U.S. Bankruptcy Court) and Leslie Storm (Bankruptcy Appellate Panel) guided the students through financial basics, such as the differences between checking and savings accounts, what to look for in a bank/credit union, and how to read credit card statements. They emphasized the importance of making your money work for you by researching the benefits and fees associated with certain accounts and credit cards. The students also learned about creating a budget that takes all their expenses into account and ensures they can meet their obligations. The students were able to ask questions they had about the taxes withheld from their paychecks and learned how to understand their pay stubs.
The lesson served as a foundation for the following week’s seminar, in which students witnessed a simulated meeting of creditors that explained the consequences debtors face when they can no longer keep up with their expenses. While the lesson itself illustrates someone filing for bankruptcy in part because of irresponsible money management, the bankruptcy attorneys who conducted the presentation emphasized that most of their clients are forced to file for bankruptcy due to circumstances beyond their control.
Alex Mattera, a partner at Demeo LLP, played the role of the debtor during the faux bankruptcy hearing the students observed.
“In this case, I (the debtor) didn’t have to get into this situation, but most people have no choice. For example, many people file for bankruptcy because of mounting medical bills due to something like a catastrophic injury,” he said.
Co-chair of the BBA’s Financial Literacy Committee Douglas Rosner (Goulston & Storrs) and attorneys Jessica Youngberg (Veterans Legal Services), Gary Cruickshank (Law Office of Gary W. Cruickshank) and Kathleen Cruickshank (Murphy & King) also participated in the mock hearing.
After the meeting of the creditors, students watched a mock court hearing play out over the debtor’s continued failure to pay his car payments. Judge Joan N. Feeney presided over the matter, and students had the opportunity to volunteer to play the role of counsel on either side and as volunteer law clerks. Afterwards, Judge Feeney answered their questions about how she got into bankruptcy law and the interesting and challenging aspects of being a judge. She and the bankruptcy attorneys in the room described pursuing bankruptcy law because they wanted to help people and businesses with their chance to start over financially after facing a hard time.
Holland & Knight intern, Lily Kelly, confers with Mary Murray (Courtroom Deputy) with Judge Joan N. Feeney presiding.
We often ask Summer Jobs students about their favorite enrichment seminars, and they usually respond that they enjoy the mock City Council hearing the most. It’s not surprising, as they get to visit the real City Council Chamber at City Hall in Boston, hear from a past City Council President about his experiences, and debate and vote on a hypothetical proposed ordinance.
Attorney Lawrence DiCara opened the morning by highlighting the importance of City Council and how the Council’s decisions directly impact the lives of those living, working, and visiting Boston. DiCara knows firsthand what tough decisions the Council faces, as he was a member of Boston’s City Council for 9 years and served as the President in 1978.
He then led the students through a mock hearing where they separated into interest groups in support/opposition to a faux ordinance regarding a teen curfew. The interest groups included “Pediatrician’s for Peace,” an elder’s council, a teen council, and a business alliance. After hearing from both sides, the four students acting as City Councilors decided not to pass the proposed curfew.
Afterwards, the students spoke to DiCara about a range of subjects, from the highlights of his career in City Hall and as a practicing attorney, to his opinion on some issues in the city today. Many students commented they came away from the day with a more sophisticated understanding of city government, and the power that all Boston residents have to make their voices heard on an issue of importance.
Summer Jobs students participate in a mock City Council hearing.
For their second enrichment seminar, our Summer Jobs Students met with five individuals working in different legal settings. This seminar is designed to acquaint them with the wide array of jobs attorneys can do and practice settings they can work in.
Genevieve Aguilar (Choate Hall & Stewart) explained what working for a large, corporate law firm is like, noting the fast-paced environment and rewarding pro bono opportunities that come her way. Some students noted that her job was the most like a “traditional lawyer” as they had envisioned the job prior to listening to all the seminar’s speakers.
Boston Latin School graduate Ying Wang (State Street) spoke about how working in-house varies from firm work in that you have one “client.” Many of the students currently attend Boston Latin School (BLS) and were curious about how her experiences at BLS prepared her for her legal career. She noted that the rigor of BLS classes readied her for the focus and diligence she needed in law school. Wang is also a Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the U.S. Army Reserves, and she spoke about her experience offering legal assistance to soldiers in the region. She discussed the military as an option to fund a college education, though she did not personally pursue that route.
Janette Ekanem (Greater Boston Legal Services) highlighted the rewarding nature of legal services work and the complex, life-altering challenges her clients face. The students were interested in the difference she found when she switched from practicing real estate law in a firm to a legal services organization that helps the underserved.
Mark Zglobicki (Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General) discussed how important making and keeping professional connections can be for one’s career and that the students should start by staying in touch with those they’re working with this summer. Many students asked about the everyday work of the Inspector General’s Office, as it was an agency they had never heard of prior to speaking with Mark.
Finally, Solana Goss (Boston Bar Association) shared how her work with the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service engages her in a legal career without having obtained a J.D. She fielded many questions about preparing for life in college and later in the professional world and spoke about what she learns from interacting with attorneys and clients on a regular basis.
Summer Jobs students hear from Ying Wang (State Street Corporation) during an Enrichment Seminar on Exploring Legal Careers
The Summer Jobs interns met with Daniel Forster, the VP of Enrollment Management at Westfield State University earlier in the month. Forster is a member of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, and he described the types of financial aid available, guided the interns through determining the actual cost of attending different universities, and provided important tips for completing the FAFSA.
With approximately half of the interns headed to college this fall and the other half considering their options as they apply in the next few months, the presentation was peppered with questions. From scholarships for left-handed people or those with the last name Zolp to corporate grants and federal and private loan options, there are many ways for students to obtain funds for tuition. Forster reminded the interns that all of these sources have different applications and terms & conditions. It’s important to apply to as many scholarships as possible and to seek out scholarship and grant sources before turning to loans.
At the start of the seminar, Forster described the various higher ed institutions he’s worked for over the past 28 years, including Simmons College and Wheelock College. After hearing about the many components of financial aid and the steps students can take to ensure they’re covered for college, one intern asked Forster what he felt was the biggest takeaway from his presentation. “Do not borrow more than you need,” he responded. Forster explained that many fall into the trap of borrowing more from a private loan institution than they really need to while attending college. Instead, he recommended searching and applying to scholarship programs and saving as much as possible from summer employment. Any amount paid up front is going to be better than paying that amount back later, with interest.
For their first enrichment seminar of the year, the Summer Jobs student interns participated in Law 101. The morning is partly a crash course on being a lawyer and partly a Q & A session with the attorneys who present the topics. The grand finale is a “Jeopardy!”-style game where the students test the knowledge they just picked up. Attorneys Michael Licker (Foley Hoag) and Kimberly Parr (Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General) led the discussion and activity.
While many high school students may have learned about the legal system in social studies or civics classes, it’s rare that they have the opportunity to speak directly with attorneys about these topics. During Law 101, they receive a broad overview of the paths to law school and the many different areas of law in which attorneys practice. They also learn about the difference between criminal and civil cases and the structure of the court system on the state and federal levels.
Some students had questions about the path from high school to law school, and how their academic performance and choice of undergraduate university could influence their future options. Other students wondered about being a law student, whether courses they take are difficult and how a law school can keep the curriculum up-to-date when laws are changing in real time. Speaker Kim Parr highlighted her own transition from a large law firm to a government agency and the differences between various types of legal offices and environments.
After a high-energy round of “Jeopardy!”, it was time for the students to return to their offices for the rest of their work day. In the coming weeks, we will be covering their experiences learning about municipal government, touring courthouse buildings, and more.
To see photos from the summer, view our online album here.
Student interns deliberate over the correct answer