We are past the halfway point of the program and I have adapted quickly to the work environment. As a psychology major, I often think about people’s underestimated capacity to adapt and cope with new or challenging situations. This internship is challenging in the sense that it is enabling me to consider situations from a legal perspective and there are basic skills that I must master to provide as much assistance as I can. I do not want to be a burden to the attorneys, who are busy advocating for their clients, and if there are small tasks I can perform that would allow them to focus their attention on helping the client, then I want to perform as much of that work as possible. I see it as an opportunity to learn about the less glamorous parts of working in law, the parts that do not take place in the courtroom and are not shown on TV but are essential steps in the process.
I have a newfound appreciation for the work that secretaries do. My only prior form of contact with secretaries would be on the phone, trying to reach the professional for whom they work. Now, having worked closely with some of the secretaries, I realize their role is far more encompassing and important. They keep the attorney’s calendars, receive documents relevant to the cases, keep essential forms on hand, and so on. They take care of many of the logistical and “boring” tasks so the attorney can give the client and related arguments more attention. I, in turn, am doing my best to help alleviate some of the workload for the secretaries in addition to the attorneys.
Before this summer, I would actively try to avoid calling people for business reasons. I would try to email or look at the Frequently Asked Questions on the business’s website to avoid interacting with another person on the phone. I think my main concern was that I would come off as incompetent and I did not want to waste anyone’s time. Now, however, part of my tasks include calling clients and other businesses. I have already lost my fear and anxiety around speaking with people on the phone.
An important part of acting as a supportive colleague in a work environment is knowing when to take opportunities and knowing when to advocate for others. For instance, if I know a certain attorney is going to do a client intake, I may ask if one of my fellow interns can sit in during the intake. We are all there to learn and I do not have to go to every intake, mediation, etc. We can then, also, all reflect on intakes in general together, and there is no resentment that one intern is taking all the opportunities. I can also do my part to vouch for the abilities of my peers. This is the kind of work environment I would like to work in sometime in the future, and I think it is important to cultivate those supportive habits now.