At the Threshold – Where Preparation Meets Opportunity
It may be true that luck is where opportunity meets preparation. But often, there is a gap in between the two for students, especially law students.
More often than not, forces of nature converge to bridge the gap between preparation and opportunity. One such catalyst in Florida is the Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Minority Initiative Program, launched in May 2005.
The program is designed to provide internship placements during the school year to minority second- and third-year law students from four regional law schools: Nova Southeastern University, St. Thomas University, the University of Miami, and Florida International University.
The bar association’s stated goals are to introduce students at the four law schools to Palm Beach County, providing them with exposure to the local legal community, and mentoring opportunities. The program was one that Shelley-Ann Springer, a student at the University of Miami law school and an intern with the West Palm Beach law firm Gunster Yoakley, could not pass up.
“Had the internship not worked out, I wasn’t really going to do anything. I was just going to concentrate on my semester. I was given the opportunity to see what [a law firm] was really like,” Springer said.
Another University of Miami student, Cleve Glenn, an intern at Greenburg Traurig, looked forward to his internship experience. “Overall, it demystified the idea of working in a law firm,” Glenn said. “I was given the opportunity to develop good relationships with the attorneys.”
However, these internship opportunities were not won without significant preparation. The students chosen were in the top 50 percent of their respective classes, showed involvement and leadership in law school organizations, received law school awards and honors, and participated in community service activities. While evidence of this preparation was noted by the firms, it also opened other doors.
“My last day, several of the attorneys took me to lunch. My boss knew I was going to Houston; however, she expressed an interest in [employing] me,” said Glenn. “To me that gesture meant a lot. If I had not already committed to the other firm, I would have stayed.”
Creating a range of choices for herself was important to St. Thomas University School of Law student Jessica Larramendi-Menjivar, who interned with the clerk and comptroller of Palm Beach County. Prior to participating in the program, she had held two internships. “I was going to try to seek out another form of internship, but what I saw was that [the Minority Initiative Program] was looking for interns for placement in Palm Beach County,” Larramendi-Menjivar said.
“Jessica worked with our in-house counsel. She was highly committed to her internship program and very serious about her work. We think her skills and drive should equip her well for a successful legal career. I hope to see her practicing in Palm Beach County some day,” said Sharon R. Bock, clerk and comptroller of Palm Beach County.
Many interns are rewarded for their ambition and experience. Springer was eventually offered a position with the Shook, Hardy and Bacon law firm, where she interned last summer. For her part, Larramendi-Menjivar, who is in the process of interviewing, said the experience “gave me an introduction as to what working in a firm would be like.”
Because of its success, the PBCBA Minority Initiative Program expanded from its six original law firms, clerk of the court, and Fourth District Court of Appeal during the spring 2006 semester, adding three more law firms and the 15th Judicial Circuit.
Which goes to show what a difference a little “luck” can make.
Farrah Hudson is an intern with The Florida Bar’s Public Information and Bar Services Department.