Our Summer Series continues! This series highlights different Latina students and law grads as they embark in their summer jobs and/or bar prep all across the country. We hope to provide a variety of work experiences, options for a healthy work-life balance, and general motivation through different guest contributors to help you to take charge of your summer and professional goals! Today we also hear from Yadilsa, a rising 2L who spent her summer doing working as an in-house intern. She shares the amazing lessons she’s learned in private practice that will propel her career forward!
Hi, my name is Yadilsa Diaz and I am a rising 2L at Rutgers Law School in Newark, NJ. I would like to share (1) why I chose to go in-house my first summer (2) my summer experience, and (3) advice for incoming 1Ls. For the pre-law ladies that may not know what it means to be in-house, it is essentially a position in a company’s law department. The business people in companies rely on their in-house counsel for the day-to-day function of the company. An in-house position is highly desired because work-life balance is usually promoted and achieved. I say “usually” because work-life balance depends on the company’s culture.
Some wonder why I decided to go in-house my first summer if a job offer will not result after graduation. I chose to intern in-house because I realized that this was a very unique opportunity that does not come often. Also, it was a great way to express that I was interested in private practice since my resume did not. Furthermore, I wanted to intern at this specific company because it has made an affirmative effort to promote diversity and inclusion and I wanted to be somewhere that would celebrate my background, not suppress it.
My Summer Experience
My 1L summer has been even more incredible than I expected. I was assigned to the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity group. Initially, I was intimidated because I was the only person of color in that specific group. I realized early on that there was no need to feel that way because the attorneys in my group were super eager to teach me and introduce me to the field.
Before my internship, I had no idea what a career in privacy and cyberlaw entailed. Now, I realize that there are only two pre-requisites to the practice and they are (1) the desire to learn and (2) curiosity. I am extremely thankful to be in that position because I know that I will be in environments where I know nothing and will have to adjust, so why not build the necessary skills to succeed in that environment now?
Some of the most valuable things that I learned during this internship were not related to the actual work. A mentor at the company made it clear that careers are not made by sitting at your desk. Although good work product is important, making sure that people know who you are is just as important. The easiest way to put myself out there was by asking attorneys to meet for lunch or coffee and 99% of them replied with a calendar invitation.
Summer jobs for 1Ls can be difficult to find! I can only speak on the law firm and in-house job hunt because that is where I have experience and I can certainly get discouraging. The advice that I was given was to apply broadly and to NOT disqualify myself. Many times, we may think “I am not qualified because my GPA is not high enough” or “I don’t have a background in this field,” but that is not your decision to make.
Seek mentors. For first-generation law students, mentors are ESSENTIAL. They will teach you the ins and outs of law school and the profession and will welcome all of your questions with open arms. Where do you find these majestic creatures? They are in law school organizations, bar associations, and at your summer job waiting to be found. The hardest part is starting the conversation, but once you do, you will not regret it. If you keep reaching out and keep them in the loop with your latest accomplishments, the mentor-mentee relationship will form naturally.
Lastly, don’t forget that the things that make you different, can make you attractive to employers that want to diversify their firm or company. Be on the lookout for diversity internships and fellowships that will give you the unique experience to work at a prestigious firm or company that would otherwise not accept 1L applicants.
Always remember: YOU are your own best advocate because no one will fight for YOU harder than YOU.