Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

August, 2004

Law Links Opens Professional Doors to Disadvantaged Youth
~Now a decade-old, the summer internship program is stronger than ever~

By Tom Breihan

Ten years after its first successful session, the Law Links summer internship program continues to thrive. The Citizenship Law-Related Education Program for the Schools of Maryland (CLREP) launched the program in the summer of 1994 in Baltimore City, and it is still going strong with programs in Baltimore City, Prince George’s County and the lower Eastern Shore.

The Law Links program places economically disadvantaged high school students in law-related internships at law firms, nonprofit agencies and court offices, where they learn about legal careers and earn money. In addition, students take part in the Law Leadership Institute, an educational program in which they learn about legal careers and professional environments.

“Law Leadership is a 60-hour educational program that talks to them about professional decorum, professional language in the workplace, timeliness and what it means to be on time at work,” says CLREP Assistant Director Shelly Wojciechowski. “We have already covered criminal law; we’re going to be looking at civil law and juvenile justice. We have [State] Senator Lisa Gladden come in each year to discuss the aspect of lobbying and lawmaking …We have a lot of good things planned.”

This summer, 44 student participated in the program. “We interviewed 59 in Baltimore City, and 29 are accepted, so it’s pretty competitive,” says Wojciechowski.

“We have had very, very good luck with these Law Links students,” says Lynn Cain, Circuit Administrator of the First Circuit of Maryland. “They meet our expectations.”

Cain runs the program in the Lower Shore. The Lower Shore’s Department of Education had conducted a judicial intern program for several years before merging its program with Law Links, which has changed the way the program is run. “They get to see what we do in the judiciary from lots of different perspectives,” says Cain. “The absolute most positive thing is that they get to meet with the Chief Judge of the state. He spends a tremendous amount of time with these kids when they go up there. Many people don’t get that type of opportunity.”

The program benefits both the interns and the agencies that employ them. “It’s no holds barred,” adds Wojciechowski. “[The firms] know they’re high school interns, but at the same time they’re employees, and they expect a certain work quality out of them, and they’re getting it. The kids are taking it seriously, and the employers are getting what they hope to get out of the program as well.

“About thirty percent of the kids at the end of the summer are retained in some capacity by their law firms or agencies,” Wojciechowski continues. “A lot of them are volunteers.”

Some, however, are rehired by their employers after the program ends. The law firm of Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew, P.A., for example, opted to hire Christopher Bilal, who had been a Law Links intern with the firm during the summer 2003 program. “[Chris Bilal] is a very bright young man, and we were very fortunate to get him through the Law Link program,” says firm partner Robert Ferguson. Bilal now works for the firm part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer.

“I think it’s an excellent program; it’s very helpful to the interns that take part in it,” adds Ferguson. “It’s a good program for the law firms as well. I think it’s a good thing for the lawyers to do and for the Maryland State Bar Association to support, mentoring young students.”

“It’s a good experience,” agrees Ebony Beverly, one of this summer’s interns. Beverly is an incoming junior at Western High School in Baltimore City, and she is presently interning at the firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering LLP.

“Most interns are college students, and I’m a high school student, so I like it,” says Beverly. “And I want to be an attorney, so I get to talk to different attorneys.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: August, 2004

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