For 16 years, Maryland high school students have taken advantage of MSBA's student/law firm summer internship and worked as Law Links interns in local law firms and law-related agencies. Law Links offers young people summer employment and a comprehensive learning experience, linking them with attorneys in an educational and professional setting. MSBA presents this public service program every summer to prepare young people for college and the professional business world and engage them in a comprehensive educational experience.
Through MSBA's internship, the law firms and agencies pay the students for seven weeks of summer employment including time spent at the Law and Leadership Institute, the educational component of the program. This unique internship supplements the interns' professional work experience with education and training. Thus, the students are paid for their employment, gain work experience in a business office and develop professional skills for their future careers.
Nineteen Baltimore City high schools students have signed on as Law Links interns this year, starting the seven-week internship on June 21. Their educational opportunities include visits with Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Court of Appeals of Maryland, and Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn, District Court of Maryland, plus a field trip to Baltimore City Circuit Court and a tour of the University of Maryland School of Law. The internship concludes on August 6.
Over the years, many interns have excelled in their work and, at the firm's invitation, continued their employment with the law firm well beyond the internship; in fact, several now work full-time at their law firms. A number have also gone on to college and some are now lawyers, graduating from such law schools as Harvard, Georgetown University and George Mason University. But whatever destiny holds for each intern, Law Links is a positive step and a bridge to the youth's future.
The Citizenship Law-Related Education Program (CLREP), MSBA's educational arm in the schools, presents the Institute and serves as Law Links' administrator. The Institute focuses on everything from workplace issues, career goals and cultural diversity to communication skills and business etiquette. CLREP's staff guides and mentors the interns, sponsors field trips and invites prominent judges, attorneys and other officials to address the interns. Essentially, it introduces students to the professional world of work.
In 1994, MSBA instituted Law Links as a community outreach effort so law firms and law-related agencies could offer young people the chance to learn and work in a professional setting. The interns are encouraged "to seize this learning opportunity," states Ellery "Rick" Miller, Jr., CLREP's Executive Director, "take advantage of it and be of value to their law firms and agencies."
"So many of our young people have no future vision and can't see beyond their home, neighborhood and school," Miller continues. "They have no idea of what goes on in the courthouse, a law firm or a law-related agency. Law Links is a transformative program that takes young people, who have the courage to apply, be interviewed and then placed in what, to them, is a foreign environment and learn about the law, working in a professional setting."
In the last 16 years, 698 high schools students have served as summer interns, taking advantage of this fulfilling educational and career-developing experience. To date, more than 100 law firms and law-related agencies have supported and participated in Law Links. Many serve as mentors to the young people and keep in touch with the interns after the program ends in August.
"The professionals from the law firms and agencies have told us how they are energized by the opportunity to work with and mentor young people who are dedicated and engaged," adds Miller. Law Links is a bridge to their future.
MSBA and local bar association leaders plus all of the legal volunteers affiliated with this summer internship have found the experience to be rewarding.
Over the years, Law Links has been have offered in various jurisdictions, and this year's program is based in Baltimore City. Law Links would not be possible without the ongoing sponsorship and contributions of the Maryland State Bar Association, the Commonweal Foundation, Department Of Labor, Licensing & Regulation, Association of Legal Administrators, Baltimore Bar Foundation, Bar Associations' Insurance Trust and many others.
Future expansion efforts are already underway in hope of re-establishing the program on Maryland's lower Eastern Shore, Prince George's County and the addition of Montgomery County.