In the United States, working full time means working at least 40 hours a week. 40 hours a week at a job means spending more time during the week working than doing anything else. This makes employment an integral part of an individual’s identity and if they work in a toxic environment with a bad boss and coworkers, it can negatively affect the quality of their whole life. People who are wronged in their place of work, especially by insidious discrimination, deserve justice. This summer, the Whitman Internship Grant has afforded me the opportunity to pursue an internship that fulfills my desire for justness and fairness, helping those who have been wronged, by working for Attorney Michael Jacobson in Seattle, WA.
Michael Jacobson specializes in employment discrimination and immigration law. We see a lot of cases involving gender, race and disability discrimination. These cases typically involve harassment and wrongful termination. Our initial job is to figure out key information to determine if an individual has a case or not, such as: What is the protected characteristic that is being discriminated against? (I.e. race, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation) What is the most extreme example they can think of that makes them think they have a case of discrimination? Is there anyone who has heard of these incidences and would be willing to describe them to us? These are just a few of the key questions designed to determine if we can help an individual.
My task load on a typical day involves interviewing potential clients about their case and writing down their information for Mike to review later, responding to emails regarding immigration inquiries and writing executive summaries that give an overview of the evidence we have collected so far (and sometimes getting distracted staring out the office window at our fantastic view of Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle). Everyday I’m doing something different and am given a lot of independence to work by myself and on what interests me. Unlike during the school year, what I am writing and working on directly impacts people’s lives, and although that has pressure and expectations attached to it, I find it extremely exciting and rewarding.
The majority of people who call and email the office are in need of someone to listen to them, give advice to them, and guide them through a very distressing event in their lives. Undoubtedly, losing a job is one of the most stressful events that can occur in life. Sympathy is not something I would have initially expected to play such a large role in the legal profession, but after taking on this internship I have experienced tremendous sympathy for clients from all walks of life. It has made me realize how important it is that people receive the representation they deserve. When we can help someone, and make their life even a little easier, it is tremendously rewarding.
The path to find what you want to do with your major, in my case politics, is not always clear cut. However, my experience interning this summer has helped me realize that I enjoy working in a dynamic environment in ways that tangibly improve people’s lives. The support I have received this summer from Mike and his legal assistant Olivia Hagel (A 2016 Whitman grad!) have reinforced my goal to attend law school after graduation.
Experiences like Sofia’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff