Penn State Law students find meaningful work through summer internships

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The vast majority of Penn State Law students spend their summer away from Happy Valley, completing internships and gaining valuable experience in law firms, nonprofits, and businesses around the state and the nation. Here's a look at a few students at various levels of their legal education who found meaningful work in diverse fields, and excelled at it.

Allison Wells, a third-year law student, has always dreamt of being general counsel for a sports league or team, and this summer, she was offered an internship position with USA Track and Field (USATF) during a summer Olympic year.

The position entailed many different aspects of the law, including intellectual property issues, governing bylaws, and operating regulations. She had the opportunity to sit in meetings with outside counsel, gather documents for discovery, and draft legal documents. A highlight of the position was working with outside counsel, which is critical to an organization like USATF, because, as Wells said, “It’s somewhat of a common idea amongst general counsels that they know enough about a lot, and not enough about specifics.”

Third-year student Beth Ramos realized during her undergraduate tenure as a biology major that she wanted to work with people, not in a laboratory. This discovery led her down a path toward a career in public defense, and this summer, she was able to gain valuable experience with an internship at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, working with low-income people charged with capital crimes in Louisiana.

During her time there, Ramos worked on legal and factual research both for mitigation on various cases as well as pre-trial issues. Exercises on jury selection were also a large part of her time, including generating mock jurors via Craigslist advertisements and interviewing former jurors of a previous trial. Though the position had its challenges, Ramos enjoyed her time there, and credits her ability to communicate with all types of people in stressful situations to her work with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Penn State Law.

Gaining diverse experience was second-year student Brandon McCune’s goal when he set out to look for a summer work experience. After working with Penn State Law’s Career Services Office to get his documents in order to pursue internships, an outside opportunity through a connection of his roommate’s father came through.

After one phone interview, McCune accepted a coveted position as an intern for the Orange County District Attorney’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit. Working exclusively with one attorney in the office, McCune’s experience included motion work, trial briefs, and analyzing and discussing evidence. He was also able to witness all stages of a criminal trial, from pre-trial to sentencing. The attorney he worked under exposed him to many aspects of the department, and always asked for his input. On his first day on the job, he began transcribing videos on a case in which he would end up becoming heavily involved — a case that goes to trial this month.

“Literally everything I did, I learned at Penn State Law,” said McCune. Courses like Applied Legal Analysis and Writing helped to prepare him for the internship. “For every case I had, I wrote a trial document,” he said. McCune also noted that he was grateful for the background that his Criminal Law course provided. “Having the knowledge really helped.”

For Jonathan Moore, a second-year law student, regulatory law, though complex, is very familiar. Prior to coming to law school, Moore was the manager of corrective actions/corporate compliance for an aerospace manufacturing company in Kansas. That unique background led him to a summer internship with Prince Law Offices, in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania.

Starting out assigned to the Firearms Industry Consulting Group, the firm’s firearms division that deals with Pennsylvania and federal firearms law, his expertise in dealing with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues became apparent. He was asked to revamp the entire OSHA division of the firm. And though starting from scratch on an entire division of a law firm was certainly a challenge, Moore credits part of his success to his education at Penn State Law. Many of his courses in his first year prepared him for the diverse challenges he faced, particularly Legal Research Tools and Strategies. “You can never emphasize enough how important that is,” said Moore.

Though he is only starting his second year of law school, Moore is still currently working with Prince Law Offices as the firm’s OSHA consultant. His primary duties include performing initial assessments, mock OSHA audits, and developing OSHA-compliant safety programs. After graduation, Moore has been offered a full-time position with the firm.

While all very different work experiences, each Penn State Law student found great value in their summer positions, all saying, in some way, that it was the best job they’ve ever had. Whether entering the workforce after graduation this spring, or returning next fall for their final year, these experiences will stay with them throughout their careers.

Last Updated September 15, 2016