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Exploring the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program: Is it Right for You?

If you are in high school and considering a career in law, then you don’t need to wait till you get to law school to intern with a law firm. There are internship programs for high school students to get a taste of what a career in law might entail!


The Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program is a well-regarded program for aspiring legal professionals. In this deep dive, we will delve into the program's structure, the areas it covers, its faculty, prestige, costs, eligibility, important dates and deadlines, and what prospective interns can expect to work on. We'll also consider the pros and cons of this program and share a couple of testimonials to provide insight into its prestige and worth. We'll wrap up with a "Should You Apply" section to help you make an informed decision.



What is the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship?


The Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program (TMSLIP) offers New York City public high school students a unique opportunity for summer employment and professional development training in collaboration with legal employers. These legal employers encompass a variety of entities, including law firms, corporations, nonprofits, and government organizations.


The program is conducted annually from March to August. It represents an integral component of the New York City Bar Association's ongoing initiatives to bolster the pathway to a legal career.


Note: TMSLIP is a paid summer internship program for 6 to 8 weeks. Employer partners are the organizations employing the student participants, not the NYC Bar Association.


How is the program structured?


The Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program typically spans 6-8 weeks during the summer, offering students a hands-on introduction to the legal field. Interns are exposed to various facets of law practice, gaining valuable insights into legal processes, research, and advocacy.

The typical time commitment required for the internship is about 35 to 40 hours per week. Interns are considered full-time employees and are expected to be available for work during the standard office hours of the firm, from Monday to Friday. Overtime hours are not permitted for interns.

What is the eligibility criteria?


Eligibility criteria typically include being a current high school student with a strong interest in law. The program encourages diversity and welcomes applicants from various backgrounds in New York.


What is the application process like?


  1. The application process for this program involves students submitting a comprehensive package, which includes a resume, an up-to-date transcript, a letter of recommendation, valid working papers, and two personal essays. It's essential to note that three mandatory pre-employment training sessions are a fundamental part of the program, and these sessions occur before resumes are forwarded to potential employers.

  2. In cases where acceptance is not granted initially, it's important to understand that ODEIB may need more support due to resource constraints. If you do not secure immediate acceptance, you will be promptly notified. In instances where you are placed on the waitlist, rest assured that you will receive communication via email to schedule interviews if and when additional positions become available. To maintain eligibility for consideration, students must attend the workshops mentioned above.

  3. Regarding placement, the program strives to align students with employers that match their interests. However, it's important to recognize that this alignment may only sometimes be possible. You may find yourself in a firm or organization specializing in something other than your interest. We encourage you to embrace the experience and remain committed in such situations. Often, unexpected opportunities can lead to discovering new interests and insights into previously unfamiliar sectors. Moreover, you will likely form meaningful connections wherever you are placed and make a lasting impact.



Is there any cost to attending? Will you receive a stipend?


The program does not have an associated cost; employers directly compensate the interns, typically offering a minimum wage of $15 per hour or more. Previously, the pay scale ranged from $15 to $21 per hour. Payments are scheduled on a bi-weekly basis.


What topics are covered in this internship?


Interns engage in a wide range of work areas, including but not limited to civil rights, criminal law, family law, and corporate law. This diversity enables participants to explore their interests and discover their niche within the legal profession.


Is this a prestigious program?


The Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program is highly regarded in the legal community. Its association with the legacy of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, adds to its prestige. Alums of the program have achieved remarkable success in their legal careers. The program selects only 35 students, and this small cohort makes it a fairly selective program because you can expect that at least a few hundred people apply.

In reflecting on her experience with the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, Shanice Naidu-Jimenez, currently serving as an Assistant Corporation Counsel at the New York City Law Department, emphasizes the profound lesson she gained about the significance of community and sponsorship in the legal field. Raabia Qasim, currently serving as an Assistant General Counsel at the City of New York, reflects on her transformative journey with the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program (TMSLIP). Through TMSLIP, she met her closest friends and established a network of colleagues who have become both friends and invaluable mentors in her legal career. This program, she affirms, serves as the pivotal marker for her entry into the legal profession.

Some associated partners include Akin Gump Strauss Haur & Feld LLP, Allen & Overy LLP, BakerHostetler LLP, Brooklyn Law School Library, Cohen & Gresser LLP, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, and many more.



What are the important dates and deadlines?

Be sure to check the official program website for the most up-to-date information on application deadlines and program dates for the following 2024 application cycle.


What can I expect as an intern?


As an intern, you can expect to work on real legal cases, engage in legal research, assist with document preparation, and even attend court proceedings. This hands-on experience is invaluable for your legal career. Interns typically handle administrative responsibilities, which may encompass tasks such as recordkeeping, filing mail, sending faxes, and managing incoming phone calls. In most cases, interns support paralegals and the support staff and may not be directly supervised by an attorney. In addition to their regular duties, interns can gain substantive legal experience and exposure to the legal profession through participation in development programs integrated into the employer's existing internship program.



Pros and Cons of the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program


Pros:

  1. You will gain valuable experience The program offers a structured and immersive experience that spans several weeks during the summer, providing high school students with a hands-on introduction to the legal field. This hands-on experience equips interns with a deeper understanding of various legal processes, research methodologies, and advocacy techniques. It is an invaluable stepping stone for those contemplating a legal career.

  2. You will develop a foundational understanding of diverse areas of law Interns are exposed to an array of work areas, including but not limited to civil rights, criminal law, family law, and corporate law. The program's commitment to exploring a wide spectrum of legal domains enables participants to develop their interests and uncover their potential niche within the intricate and multifaceted legal profession, offering them a breadth of knowledge that can serve as a strong foundation for their future legal endeavors.

  3. You will build a valuable network The Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program enjoys an elevated status within the legal community, largely attributed to its association with the legacy of Thurgood Marshall, the trailblazing first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Moreover, the program's success stories testify to its prestige, with numerous alums achieving remarkable feats in their legal careers. These connections and the program's stellar reputation offer aspiring legal professionals a strong support network, valuable mentorship opportunities, and a foot in the door in the competitive legal world.

Cons:

  1. You will face a competitive selection process The program's stringent selection process, which involves a comprehensive application and interview procedure, can be highly competitive, making it challenging for some applicants to secure a spot. Consequently, not all inspiring interns may receive acceptance, and a limited number may be placed on a waitlist due to resource constraints, posing potential disappointment and uncertainty for those eager to participate.

  2. You will have limited control over placement While the program endeavors to align students with employers that match their specific interests, the reality is that interns might only sometimes find themselves in organizations or firms specializing in areas that align with their personal preferences. This lack of control over placement may necessitate a degree of adaptability and a willingness to embrace unexpected opportunities, which, while valuable, may not be directly related to one's initial career aspirations.

  3. You will have to make a significant time commitment Interns are expected to commit to 35 to 40 hours per week for the duration of the program, spanning 6 to 8 weeks during the summer. This full-time commitment might challenge high school students juggling various responsibilities, extracurricular activities, or other commitments, potentially limiting their ability to participate fully. Furthermore, the program does not permit interns to work overtime hours, which could be a drawback for those seeking additional work hours or financial compensation beyond the standard schedule.



Should You Apply?


In conclusion, the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program is a prestigious and valuable opportunity for those looking to explore the legal field. If you're a dedicated student with a passion for law and are willing to put in the effort to secure a spot, this program can be a significant step toward your legal career. The valuable experience, mentorship, and networking opportunities it provides make it a compelling option for aspiring legal professionals. If you meet the eligibility requirements and are ready to commit, consider applying and take the first step towards a rewarding legal career.


One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program


If you are interested in doing university-level research in law and ethics, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Tenzing Dolma is a Masters student specializing in research following the Nechung Oracle and the historical, religious, and cognitive approaches to its presence. She has a bachelors in Neuroscience from Loyola University Chicago and is currently completing her graduate studies at Columbia University. She hopes to help students find their passions through access to programs and organizations the same way she found hers!


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