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When the World is Ending, But Your Summer Internship is Not: A Lesson in Resiliency

Published August 11, 2020

My first law school class, Legal Analysis Writing and Research (LAWR) with Professor Reilly, did not start with a breakdown of how to write like a lawyer, or a rundown of all the assignments due, or anything educational for that matter. Instead the first lesson was about resiliency – and for every class after that, the first ten minutes were dedicated to the same topic.

To an outsider, it may seem a little odd that we focused on emotional strategies before writing strategies. But, as I wrap up my internship at the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Western District of New York, I realize those were the lessons that helped me thrive in my summer.

Before you can become a good researcher, writer or advocate you must possess the ability to protect yourself from the negative effects of stressors. It serves no purpose if you can write a perfect twenty-page memo on an ideal day, if you can barely scrape together two words on days you are stressed.  Why? Because law school and internships are one big ball of deadlines, imposter syndrome, and long hours (I suspect being an attorney is the same!), leaving little time to work in ideal mental conditions. Unfortunately, this means you need to be able to work even when everything else is working against you.

When I left my first day at the USAO I was met with the news that my fiancé’s best friend had died in a plane crash. John was an integral part of our lives; we saw him nearly every week and he was going to be the best man at our wedding this year. The darkness immediately poured over us and while all I wanted to do was be home and be present for James, my fiancé, I also knew l still had a job to do and I needed to do it well.

Now, six weeks later, I have drafted motions, compiled search warrants, edited affidavits, and researched more than I ever have before. While I could not have accomplished these tasks without the researching and writing lessons learned in LAWR – the real lesson that helped me accomplish these tasks was resiliency.

Accordingly, if you are thinking of going to law school, are starting your first legal internship, or just have a new goal you want to shatter, I recommend starting with resilience. For me, resilience looks like:

  • Building a healthy routine so when I wake up and my mind starts to race and panic about deadlines or tests I know I have a list of things I can do to start my day right and build momentum.
  • Finding time to practice yoga and sit silently because both activities remind me of the importance of breathing and letting go – especially because I am so high strung.
  • Leaning on my fiancé and other people in my support system and being vulnerable with them. In general, research indicates that the health of one person is inextricably tied to the others to whom that person is connected.

What does resiliency look like for you?

Lastly, I want to thank the Dean’s Advisory Council for their generous support in the form of a fellowship, from the University at Buffalo School of Law, for my internship. Working at an unpaid internship, especially during COVID-19, seemed like something my resiliency, or bank account, could not handle. Without the money I received, I would not have had the opportunity for the radical growth I experienced during my summer. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Peace and all good,

Sam Gier

Learn more about clinics from our students our UB Law Responds Blog

Every summer, the School of Law has a large number law students doing exciting public interest work through our fellowship program. None of this would be possible without the support from the Buffalo Public Interest Law Program (BPILP) and other generous donations funding several donor-driven fellowships.

Photo of Samantha Gier.

Samantha Gier ’22 shares lessons from her experience as an intern at the United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York.

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