Perspectives on Social Justice and the Law with Liz Chavez

Liz Chavez from Dominican University and her American Bar Association supervisor Bob Lang.

Liz Chavez from Dominican University and her American Bar Association supervisor Bob Lang.

I interned at the American Bar Association - Commission on Immigration, helping with the Detainee Hotline. I answer phone calls from detainees held in ICE facilities who need help with information on what their rights are, complaints, and to ensure fair due process in today’s broken immigration system. Every day at the ABA is very busy, and I love every second of it.


Many of the calls I receive from the detainees have very difficult cases, who I help with the assistance of my supervisor, Bob Lang. Bob has taught me many things beyond just answering the questions I have pertaining these detainees. Interning at the ABA has made me sure of what I want to do after I graduate from Dominican University in 2020: move on to law school, and help individuals like these.


Many of the detainees who I speak with end up being removed and sent back to their country of origin, but as Bob says, “there is a cost to be paid for social justice work, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth paying.”

Monica Lebensztjen of Dominican University Gets a Unique Glimpse of the Legal Field in DC

Monica taking in the cherry blossoms, a novelty of spring in DC.

Monica taking in the cherry blossoms, a novelty of spring in DC.

This semester, I am interning at DC Law Students in Court, which is a non-profit legal organization dedicated to helping low-income residents with housing code violations, evictions, and more issues. I have been accomplishing a variety of tasks such as conducting intakes at the landlord-tenant courthouse, investigating houses for code violations, and serving subpoenas. I was really excited to come to Washington, DC and get a taste of what it’s like to work within the legal field before attending law school. My internship certainly didn’t disappoint, because through my daily tasks and interactions with co-workers, I am receiving the best possible glimpse of what working in the legal field is like. 

Throughout my experience, I have developed better communication skills, especially regarding sensitive issues that clients may be facing. Many of the clients are not only facing legal battles, but also other severe problems such as poverty, domestic violence, and discrimination. I learned how important it is to allow each client to share their story because they are experiencing a lot of stress and frustration. I also learned how to communicate with clients who we were not able to help because their cases were not within our area of practice. Additionally, I have to communicate regularly with the attorneys because of the high volume of clients that DC Law Students in Court experiences. It is imperative that I note each client’s action in the legal server to make sure that the attorney is aware of whether a phone call was made or mail was sent out.  

I was surprised at how much I could assist attorneys without even possessing a law degree. As an intern, I conduct interviews with clients regarding demographics and income, and, as time went on, the attorneys trusted me enough to start asking questions regarding their cases. I quickly learned examples of housing code violations and how to read and explain certain types of legal documents. I also communicate regularly with clients and connect them with their corresponding attorneys to ensure that they are prepared for their hearings and trials. 

My favorite part of this internship is working together with the law students. What’s extremely unique about DC Law Students in Court (as implied by title) is that it operates as a clinic for student attorneys. I enjoy helping the student attorneys prepare for their cases by organizing documents, serving subpoenas, and taking pictures during housing investigations. I was able to form a close relationship with a few of the student attorneys which is additionally helpful from a networking perspective. The student attorneys give me helpful advice about the law school application process, such as studying for the LSAT, writing a personal statement, and choosing the right law school. Many of these students also attend top law schools in the nation such as Georgetown University Law Center and George Washington Law School. I am extremely grateful for all the connections I have created through this internship!

My advice to future pre-law students seeking an internship within the legal field is to keep an open mind as to where you would like to intern. I know the nationally well-known organizations may seem alluring with their fancy titles, but it is important to consider all options. I had never heard of DC Law Students in Court before coming to Washington, DC, but I am so happy I chose this internship. They accomplish such an important mission here by offering representation to clients who need it the most, and I am proud to be a part of that this semester. Don’t be swayed by just the fancy names; do your research to determine which organization you would feel most comfortable working for. The legal field here in Washington, DC is very interconnected so there are many opportunities to be involved in different areas. Also, a pre-law internship in Washington, D.C. will certainly look stellar on an application for law school! 

Sara Snyder of Saint Francis Speaks on Her Time Interning with RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network)

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Where did you intern this fall and what were some of your favorite projects?

I interned at RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network) on the National Sexual Assault Hotline. My favorite thing I do is being on the online hotline. The online hotline is a crisis hotline for people who have been impacted by sexual assault; rape, assault, sexual harassment, abuse, etc. The hotline reached an exponential amount of visitors during my time because of the Kavanaugh hearings and our wait times increased to nearly 8 hours with all of the visitors (on average the wait time is 1-2 hours). I loved being on the hotline and playing a role in a visitor’s healing process, it really made me feel like I made an impact on someone’s life. My other project I loved was being the point of contact for our volunteer program. It really made my heart warm to see all of the people that wanted to volunteer on the hotline and also make an impact.

What did you learn in your classes?

I learned a lot in the Internship Seminar class. I honestly never knew how much networking meant for finding a job or anything really. I barely even knew what networking meant, and now I am going to network events a few times a month to meet new people.

What did you do in your free time?

One of my favorite things I did was I got to go to the Kavanaugh hearings during the Opening Statements! I also made a bucket list of everything I wanted to do while I was here. It ranged from going to events at the Kennedy Center, to street festivals, to fun clubs, to seeing monuments and museums. I was even able to get a White House tour while I was here. There’s so much history here, oh and good food!

Recommendations for future interns

Do everything and anything, and never say no to opportunities. Eventbrite (an app) will be your best friend to finding free events all over the city.

How did your internship lead you to being employed?

Almost everyone at my office started off on the Online Hotline and have moved up from there. Whether they were an intern, staffer or volunteer; they all started on the hotline helping visitors. I have been offered to come back at anytime and possibly join the team because of the hard-work I have put in this semester. I also was able to network in my office and one of the supervisors knows a connection in my hometown to get me a foot in the door. I also believe that working with the type of community I want to practice law in will benefit me a lot when it comes to applying for jobs in the legal field in the future.

Q&A with Erick Elias of Farmingdale State College Interning with the Internal Revenue Service


1) Where did you intern this Fall and what were some of your favorite projects?

I interned at the Internal Revenue Service in the Research, Applied Analytics, and Statistics Division. My favorite project was forecasting the revenue the IRS is expected to receive the following year using statistical programming languages.

2) What did you learn in your classes?

The classes taught me how to become a more professional person and helped me get out of my comfort zone to develop connections.

3) What did you do in your free time?

During my free time, I explored the city, took advantage of a six flags season pass, and joined a water polo team.

4) Recommendations for future DC interns?

I would recommend DC interns to develop as many connections as possible and get the most skills out of their internship in order to boost yourself in the job market.

Ryan Shea of Roger Williams talks about his Experience with VFW's National Legislative Services Office

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Where did you intern this Fall and what were some of your favorite projects?

I interned at the VFW’s National Legislative Services Office. My favorite project has to do with the Armed Forces Retirement Home’s financial crisis. I was tasked with coming up with ideas to make its budget solvent again while avoiding raising fees to residents who we represent.

What did you learn in your classes?

I learned a lot about the professional world and how to represent yourself. The internship seminar was very helpful and developing my confidence in networking opportunities.

What did you do in your free time?

I would try to do different things each weekend from different museums/monuments to golfing, etc. I would also go out to different bars and clubs on the weekends. Most of the time I was with my friends made through the program.

Recommendations for future DC interns?

I recommend that you develop good friendships with many of the people in the program as well as other interns you meet. It can expand your network, and allows you to have more fun opportunities like receptions or events that you would not have heard about otherwise.

How did your internship lead you to being employed? 

I think that my internship has set me up well for future employment. The VFW is very well respected around Capitol Hill and has allowed me to meet people who could potentially help me become employed after college.

Nazareth College Students Speak on Their Times in DC

Dana Teets

Where did you intern this Spring and what were some of your favorite projects?

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I interned at the Newseum in the education, volunteer and visitor services department. Some of my favorite projects were working with the entire department as well as the curatorial department to create an activity cart for visitors based on media literacy. This cart engages visitors in various activities that can help them sift out good information from bad information in the media. Another one of my favorite projects was researching libraries in the DMV area for the Newseum education's department to partner with in order to give classes on identifying fake news.

What did you learn in your classes?

I learned a lot about interviewing tactics and ways to ease nerves when giving presentations and interviews in my one class. In my other class, I learned a lot about foreign policy and its many aspects. I had never taken a foreign policy class before, but taking it in DC made it worthwhile!

What did you do in your free time?

In my free time, I visited museums and dove into DC's food culture! I have had Russian food, Korean BBQ, Vietnamese food, German food, authentic French food and so much different coffee and ice cream!! Where I am from in New York, there is not much diversity in food choices so I thrived in the DC food scene. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Cherry Blossom Festival and happy hours once I turned 21!

Recommendations for future DC interns?

My recommendations for future DC interns is to always keep an open mind and force yourself to step outside your comfort zone. I am very much a family and friend oriented person, so leaving them and coming to DC by myself was hard, but this has been the greatest learning experience of my life so far. If you just let yourself experience everything new around you with an open mind, you learn so much about yourself and other people. But also, don't take everything too seriously; let yourself have fun and take in your surroundings while you are here. Also, network while you can because there is no better place to do it!

Annie Stull

Four days a week for the last fifteen weeks, I have woken up and driven to work at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, VA. It has been an absolute honor and a privilege to intern in the Grassroots Division of the NRA-ILA. The ILA stands for the Institute for Legislative Action, which is the political arm of the NRA, and what makes the NRA most famous. The NRA has always been my dream organization, even before I set my sights on a Political Science major. I am grateful that the Washington Internship Institute helped me find my way here.


At my internship, I work directly with our Grassroots staff. One of our main goals is to mobilize gun-friendly voters and encourage them to get involved. Some of the tasks I was responsible for included coordinating volunteer efforts for local gun shows and interacting with people at various political conferences, like CPAC and LibertyCon. Additionally, I was also responsible for conducting my own research and presenting to Grassroots Coordinators on many issues within the current gun control debate so I was properly familiarized with the subject when I did have the opportunity to interact with people outside the office.

My favorite part of my internship was attending CPAC with my colleagues. I am very interested in pursuing opportunities within either campaigning or grassroots efforts by a political organization, so it was a great opportunity to experience these interactions at a booth representing the NRA-ILA. When I wasn’t working, I had the opportunity to attend the various seminars and listen to different political speakers at the conference. I watched so many speakers live at the event, including President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, TPUSA Founder Charlie Kirk, and many more. I also had the privilege to actually meet and take photos with TPUSA Communications Director Candace Owens, Sheriff David Clarke, and Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Wire Ben Shapiro.

On Tuesdays, I had to take two courses at the Washington Internship Institute. In the morning, I had Internship Seminar, where I learned a lot of helpful professional skills such as interviewing and elevator pitches. I never thought the elevator pitch would actually be helpful, until I was in the elevator at my internship and literally ran into NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox. In the afternoon, I chose the elective Inside Washington: Policy and Politics, where I had the opportunity to read about a topic each week and then debate with my fellow classmates. The coolest part about this course was that every week, we would also go see a speaker on the topic that is an expert in that field. We heard from professionals at the National Right to Life Committee, The Heritage Foundation, and an attorney that actually has prosecuted in cases where the death penalty was on the table. I also had the distinct privilege to invite one of my own supervisors to speak on behalf of the NRA when we were discussing gun control.

In my free time, I would explore Washington, DC with my fellow classmates. I visited so many amazing places, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Capitol Building, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Overall, my favorite attraction had to be the Newseum, which focuses on reporters and how they exercised their First Amendment rights during hardships and tragedies around the world. I also am a huge sports fanatic, so I was sure to attend a Washington Capitals hockey game and a couple Washington Nationals baseball games.

All in all, I truly had the time of my life interning in the Washington, DC area, and I owe this to the Washington Internship Institute. This city has so much offer that cannot be rivaled anywhere else in the world. Not only will this experience be pivotal in my professional career, but I have also developed friendships that will last throughout the rest of my personal lifetime. The people both in my program and at my workplace were some of the kindest and most passionate people I have ever met and they made my transition to life in Washington so much easier for me. My biggest piece of advice to future interns is to step out of your comfort zone. I am typically very timid, but I really allowed myself to keep an open-mind and experience everything I possibly could, even if I was sometimes uncomfortable at first. I honestly made the absolute most of my time in this city, and I hope that you will fall just as much in love with it as I did.

Q&A with Denzel Averhart, Spring 2018 Intern at The Executive Office of the Mayor from Saint Xavier University


Where did you intern this Spring and what were some of your favorite projects?

I interned at the DC mayor's office, and my favorite assignment was filming the mayor's events. I was able to attend the events, film them, interview people, and edit the videos afterwards.

What did you learn in your classes?

My classes taught me what Washington really has to offer, and how I needed to prepare for the opportunities that could arise. We went over all the hard-hitting topics that currently shake Washington's political sphere, while also learning how to get a job.

What did you do in your free time?

I went to museums and happy hours on the weekends. The Madhatter soon became my favorite place to go after hours. The atmosphere and drinks simply couldn't be beat.

Recommendations for future DC interns?

Really go after every opportunity that presents itself. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, and you may find that you can expand into areas you never thought possible. One lunch with your supervisor could turn in to anything. Give DC a chance!