A group of summer interns attend a brown bag lunch during their first week at NYLAG.

A group of summer interns attend a brown bag lunch during their first week at NYLAG.

In early August, NYLAG’s summer interns met for Happy Hour at the storied Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan to enjoy one last gathering before saying good bye and heading back to law school.

The class of 2015 interns worked alongside staff members in a number of practice areas, assisting the elderly, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community, domestic violence survivors, unrepresented consumer debt defendants, immigrants and others with a range of legal services. In addition to handling substantive work, interns had the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive training program covering the civil legal services practice in New York City. There was also a series of brown bag lunches on fellowships, clerkships and other topics of interest, and social events in and around NYLAG’s office in the financial district.

NYLAG first recruited summer interns in 1996. Twenty years later, the program has grown and flourished, providing much-needed support within units and projects across the agency, while giving students hands-on legal and courtroom experience and the chance to work with seasoned public interest attorneys. Each student commits to working 10 weeks, generally from late May to early August. There were 66 summer interns in the 2015 class (primarily rising second- and third-year law school students), chosen from of a field of 750 applicants.

Here are just a few of this year’s interns, sharing thoughts about their summer at NYLAG:

Shreya Patel, Michigan State University College of Law

Shreya Patel, Michigan State University College of Law

“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been a part of the Evelyn Frank Legal Resources Program at NYLAG. My favorite experience was being given the chance to work with clients directly. Law school can only teach you so much in theory; it was really the practical experience that I gained during my time here that was invaluable to me. My supervisor, Marie Vaz, not only coached me through my interactions with my clients, but she also would take the time to give me a comprehensive background of the law for every assignment she gave me. I have learned more about Medicaid and Medicare law interning under her than I could have possibly learned from any course.”

Sam Stanton, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Sam Stanton, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

“While as a queer person of color I’ve always had to fight for my education (and continue to do so), I know that I have tremendous privilege as a law student. I also know how extremely important it is to see people that look like you in agencies and in positions of power. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to use my privilege to help our clients work against institutionalized racism, heterosexism and transphobia. I also feel very fortunate to have had the guidance and mentorship of the tireless advocates in the LGBTQ Law Project, who remain critical of legal establishments that continually marginalize queer and transgender people of color.”

Rita Vega NYLAG

Rita Vega, New York Law School

“My summer at NYLAG has really bolstered my decision to go into go into public interest. All the attorneys in the Storm Response Unit are true advocates who fight tirelessly for the rights of their clients. Further, everyone here has fostered a great learning environment where I am encouraged to interact with multiple attorneys, attend educational seminars, and engage in legal outreach. One of my favorite moments was going to the Rent Guidelines Board hearing on rent stabilization with Sunny Noh, Kamilla Sjodin, and my fellow intern Rachel Russell and hearing passionate speeches from the public about the widespread need for affordable housing. It was great to see New Yorkers mobilize in order to effectuate change – and NYLAG’s support of their efforts.”

Brian Highsmith, Yale Law School

Brian Highsmith, Yale Law School

“Over the course of my internship with the Special Litigation Unit, I have gotten the opportunity to apply a longstanding passion for economic justice to my interest in using impact litigation and other innovative legal strategies as a tool to advance important policy goals. For example, I researched legal issues in a class action lawsuit we initiated against a group of debt buyers who had wrongfully obtained and enforced millions of dollars of default judgments against low-income New York families. Without legal representation, our named plaintiffs faced long odds in going up against these sophisticated, repeat-player debt buyers. But with help of the dedicated and deeply-caring lawyers at NYLAG, our clients were able to bring a suit on behalf of the entire class of individuals who had been wronged — and work to secure relief not only for themselves, but also for tens of thousands of other low-income New Yorkers.”

Jennifer Cao, Queen’s University Faculty of Law

Jennifer Cao, Queen’s University Faculty of Law

“My time with LegalHealth at NYLAG this summer has been one of both professional and personal development. I had the opportunity to work under four incredible attorneys in matters involving veterans and undocumented persons. I wrote numerous memos regarding housing, immigration, wills, social benefits and family law. I especially enjoyed meeting with clients and seeing our work make a true and positive difference during a hard time in someone’s life. At NYLAG, I witnessed firsthand the human side of the legal profession and the immense dedication, care and passion each attorney brought to work every day. It has been an inspiring and invaluable journey and one that I will always hold in my heart.”

Jenna Cohn, Touro Law Center

Jenna Cohn, Touro Law Center

“In the Elder Law Practice, many of our clients are in poor health and have to face inevitable end of life decisions. Understandably, clients may be hesitant or fearful to discuss their end of life wishes, which are required to draft advance directives. For some, it is a difficult process to acknowledge that the end of their life may be near. I found that through multiple conversations and a display of compassion and respect for the aging client, I was able to ensure a higher level of comfort and trust. I found it very rewarding and humbling to know that I was able to provide integral legal services to vulnerable individuals who deserve to have their end of life wishes and assets sufficiently protected.”