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!