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Student Experience Spotlight Series

The OCPD Bulletin is now featuring a regular spotlight of a WCL student’s internship, externship or part-time job.  If you would like to be featured as part of this series, please email Michelle Norris at mnorris@wcl.american.edu.  To read other students’ experiences and to share your own, we encourage you to use SEEN, the Student Employer Evaluation Network in CareerLink.

 This month, we are featuring Erin Archer, a rising 3L who completed summer internship with the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP). 

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 1.      Where did you work? How did you get your job?

I got my job through another WCL student. When I told her I was looking for a job related to health law, she asked if I would be interested in disability law for veterans. After we discussed NVLSP and the type of work involved, I sent my resume and writing sample to her supervisor, and after an interview, I was hired. 

2.      What did you do every day?

Honestly, each day is a little different.  Since the litigation attorneys share one intern, projects come quickly and vary substantially.  Some days I write memos that answer complex legal questions, while other days I assist with writing Equal Access to Justice Act applications, reviewing records for issues, editing one of our publications, or drafting briefs.

3.      What was the most interesting thing you did?

So far the most interesting thing I’ve done was assist with a case on appeal to the Federal Circuit. Primarily, I assisted with researching the answers to questions that the attorneys thought the judges might ask when they were presenting their argument. It was interesting because each day I was presented with a different potential argument and would comb through case law for support for our position. Needless to say, I learned a lot about Article I courts and put my Administrative Law class to good use.

4.      What surprised you about the work?

I was surprised at how thankful people were to have even the smallest bit of help with their cases. The VA is not an easy agency to navigate, and people trying to appeal their claim are often confused, emotional, and frustrated. Sometimes having a real, live person on the other end of the phone giving advice (as opposed to a recording) can make a big difference to the person listening. Although we cannot personally assist everyone, we do provide resources to those with questions and direct them to other services organizations that might be able to help.

5.      What did you like the most about working for that employer?

I felt like I was making a difference in peoples’ lives. By the time NVLSP receives a case, it is not uncommon for the veteran to have been waiting years to get relief. As America’s heroes, I could not fight for a more deserving class of men and women.

6.      What did you find challenging about the work?

The most challenging aspect of this job was that I knew nothing about veteran’s law before I started. While there is some crossover from other areas of the law, like administrative or health law, it is, for the most part, a distinct area of law with its own set of rules.

7.      What have you learned that you can apply to your career going forward?

I have learned so much already that I could easily fill the page, so I’ll limit my response to only a few things. I think the largest improvement has been my precision – in writing, in researching, and in speaking with people on the phone. Also, I have become much quicker at mastering unfamiliar skills. For example, since I started work with no background in veteran’s law, I had to learn a unique area of the law in a short amount of time. Otherwise I would have been in for a very difficult summer!

–Erin Archer, Class of 2014

Students can access internship and job postings and participate in WCL recruitment programs through CareerLink.  To identify your own career goals and create a personalized job search strategy, log into CareerLink to schedule an appointment with an OCPD counselor today.  For help with any CareerLink access issues, email careerdevelopment@wcl.american.edu. 

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