There’s a reason why the law school encourages its students to write about their summer fellowship experiences: Only in looking back and reflecting on their professional growth through an intense period of learning and practice, does the true value of the experience emerge.
For many UB Law students who held public service positions over the summer, the #UBLawResponds blog has been a forum for those reflections. Reading their posts, it’s apparent that these short-term assignments yield rich rewards.
This year, with the support of generous donors, the School of Law placed over 60 law students at government agencies and nonprofit organizations, and as judicial law clerks. This marks the third consecutive year in which the law school has increased the number of summer placements—a remarkable achievement consistent with the law school’s commitment to public service.
Donor support enables students to accept public-service positions, which typically go unpaid. “We are very grateful to all of our donors who stepped up during this past year of unprecedented need to help us fund placements,” says Dean Aviva Abramovsky. “Without their support our students would not have had these opportunities to address access to justice needs and gain invaluable experience in environments outside of a traditional law firm.”
A small sampling of student blog posts reflects the wide range of this year’s placements – from the CDC to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to local and federal courts – and the variety of lessons our students have learned along the way:
Shamira Nawz ’23 stayed close to home for the summer, as a Catalyst Public Service Fellow with the Family Law Unit of the Erie County Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project, in Buffalo.
“One of my main tasks was to call clients and do financial intakes so that I could determine whether they were financially eligible for the consultations at the Family Court Help Desk,” she wrote. “It was nerve-wracking the first day I had to call clients. You never knew who you were going to talk to. Now it has become second nature.
“When you talk to these clients, they entrust you with their story. You start to relate to them—you start to realize that they are people who have had something terrible happen in their lives. They want to make whatever went wrong right again. When I did intakes for these clients, I realized in a small way, I was making a difference for them.
“The attorneys I reported to are the epitome of what a mentor looks like. Most importantly, they stressed the significance of mental health, a topic that is glossed over a lot in the law field.” [Read Shamira's Blog Post]
Alva Swing ’22 headed west for the summer as a Francis M. Letro ’79 and Cindy Abbott Letro Fellow in the general counsel’s office of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “I was raised in a household of two artists: my mother, an abstract painter, and my father, a sculptor and fine furniture designer,” he wrote. “I always knew I wanted to work in the arts supporting such genius and creative thinkers like my parents, but I was not an artist.
“I started my summer by writing a memo on non-fungible tokens (NFTs, the cryptocurrency-adjacent art) and what their rise in popularity could mean for the museum. I have gone on to write waivers and releases for art festivals the museum is hosting, as well as loan extensions from the museum’s private collection.
“I can recognize how much my legal writing and analysis has sharpened over the past two months, and I have realized even more how ready I am to always readjust and refocus to face whatever new challenge may be at hand.” [Read Alva's Blog Post]
Giovanni Gaglianese ’23 spent his summer learning from a high-ranking federal jurist and his law clerks. As a William F. Savino ’75, Elizabeth Martin Savino ’92 and Emma M. Savino ’18 Summer Fellow, Gaglianese interned for Hon. Julio M. Fuentes ’75, U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the 3rd Circuit in Newark, New Jersey.
“I had to make sure my research emphasized the Court’s jurisdiction,” Gaglianese reports. “This was especially important when the various Circuits pointed to each other’s legal analyses in particular doctrines and ensured that the case law emphasized our Circuit’s precedent. I had to dive into the arguments being presented in the appellant’s and appellee’s respective briefs, and situate the parameters of my research within the broader legal schema.”
The internship also brought home to him the importance of precision. “Creating a very polished document or opinion requires tedious attention to the mundane and thought-provoking alike,” Gaglianese wrote. “A sentence lacking advocacy can change an entire case. What I learned is that a legal professional should always put their best foot forward in every circumstance, whether it is a document draft, email correspondence or even an outline for a larger work product. Our word is currency, and it is our job to ensure that currency stays valuable.” [Read Giovanni's Blog Post]