Emily Zahran was among the first intern cohort from the University of Vermont in Fall 2018. The psychological sciences major, and expected graduate from the class of 2021, knew prior to coming to The Washington Center that her future included law school. But her D.C. internship focused her concentration and has influenced her future.
Where are you interning?
I intern with a criminal justice attorney named Todd Baldwin. He is a sole practitioner, so it is just the two of us. I’m essentially his right hand. I assist in work with his clients and some aspects of the court, I write letters to the court and to a couple other attorneys involved in those cases.
What prompted you to start looking for an internship?
Prior to this, I wasn’t really looking for an internship, though I was open to anything that would help with my future. I received an email from my school that had a listing of full semester internships. As I was scrolling through, I came across the one for The Washington Center. I clicked on the link and after reading all it had to offer, that’s the one I applied for. The biggest pull was that it was in D.C. It was exciting to think about living in D.C. and receiving credit for the semester. As I was just a sophomore, this was a great chance to get experience early on.
Why did you choose this program over other internship programs?
TWC really stood out because it had so many different options to choose from. Even if I wouldn’t have interned with an attorney like I did, I could have done almost any other type of internship site.
I also feel like TWC was the most diverse of all of the options, even though most were away from campus. None of the others were like thisEmily Zahran, University of Vermont.
What has been the most impactful experience or memorable encounter during your time in Washington, D.C.?
My most impactful experience was visiting the D.C. jail as part of my internship duties. I learned a lot from sitting down with those clients, and also about the process of how the jail works in terms of the security, the waiting around, and just going through all the hoops that it takes for an attorney to meet with a client there. All of the clients that I’ve met with were so thankful that we were coming to meet with them. It is part of the job, but it impacted me that I was sitting down with these people. Even though it was something that I thought I was lucky to do, they felt more fortunate that we were there. It was very different than I guess what I had envisioned.
Describe briefly what it has been like to intern at a law firm. How has it affected your professional development?
At my internship I help write motions, meet with clients, either alone or with my boss, and I read up on cases to help with the motions. We do visits and phone calls to the jail, judge’s chambers, other attorneys, and to our clients and their families. Dealing with the families is definitely the most intensive thing. If somebody is in prison, their easiest contact is with the family. Before my internship, I didn’t know if I was leaning toward criminal law or family law. This has definitely pushed me towards criminal law. Those visits to the jail and dealing with people that have been labeled as criminals, getting to sit down with them and listening to what they have to say, has really changed my views. I also learned better communications skills. This has also taught me responsibility because it is dealing with the future for other people. Not only is it the future of your client, it is beyond them and involves their families. My internship has enabled me to see the big picture.
How would you describe TWC and its impact to someone else?
I’d say it is a program that strikes the balance between the classroom and the workplace. It allows you to take the skills you learn in class and apply them in the workplace. It’s almost like a guide. Through LEAD or your night class, not only are you learning things that are educational, but also skills or tactics that you’ll be directly applying once you leave that classroom, right now in the present or in your future. Networking events were especially helpful in getting connected, while also teaching you how to communicate, to branch out, to talk about yourself or about things that are important to you. It is definitely a stepping stone to being an adult and being on your own.
When you have encountered a challenge or struggle, how have you dealt with it? What resources did you rely on?
I’m originally from New York so coming to D.C. was an easy acclimation to the big city way of life. I love talking to people and being part of networking events. I really didn’t have a remarkable struggle during my time in D.C., but I know others in my cohort who did. I would say for them, they were able to overcome their challenges thanks to the resources TWC has to offer.
What is the single greatest benefit TWC provides to students such as yourself?
It can be an obstacle to discover what it is you want out of your future. Even if you don’t have a clear path, that’s okay. All of the events TWC holds, along with your night class and LEAD, helps you meet so many different people and really figure out what it is that you’re interested in doing in the future. There are so many people that are there focused on helping you. Plus, it’s definitely nice that you are in D.C., surrounded by history. You have your internship and LEAD Monday-Friday, but have the weekend to go to all of the different museums and see everything. It’s great that you have a chance to experience all D.C. has to offer.