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internships CFS alum Kaasha Benjamin

Name: Kaasha Benjamin

CFS Concentration & Year: Legal Field Studies- Spring 2012

Internship: John Howard Association- DOJJ intern

Major /Minor: Political Science/Business Institutions

Graduation Year: 2012

Current Position: School: University of Pittsburgh School of Law- 4th yr. law student

Job: Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh- Legal Intern

Describe your CFS internship and how it helped you either in interviews, job opportunities or graduate school applications?

At my CFS internship, I conducted research on different programs within the Illinois Department of Corrections Juvenile Justice System, and wrote memos on my findings. This type of task helped prepare me for my law school education, and particularly the legal memo form of writing that is common in the legal field. Legal writing is an essential skill for lawyers. Working at the JHA allowed me to write about topics that were unfamiliar to me, while gaining the experience of organizing large amounts of information into a succinctly-composed work product.

Did you see it as a future career when you took the internship?

When I took the internship at the JHA, I knew that I would begin law school in the fall; however, the internship provided a nice transition for me into a professional academic setting.

Please briefly explain what you are doing now?

I am currently in my third and final year of law school at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. At school, I serve as a member of the law school’s Moot Court Board, which organizes the internal mock trial and moot court competitions at the school. This year I also represented the law school at the National Health Law Moot Court Competition. I am also a teaching assistant for first year legal writing, and managing editor of the Pitt Law Journal of Law and Commerce.

I also work part-time as a legal intern at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh. At my internship, I work on various projects such as researching regulatory guidelines for my organization, writing legal memos on topics of interest for the legal department, reviewing vendor contracts, and helping to support the other attorneys in my department.

Is there a link between your CFS experience and what you are doing now?

Definitely. I knew I wanted to go into the legal field, which requires strong research and writing skills. During my CFS internship, I worked on and developed these skills which I use every day in my current job and academic studies.

What advice do you have for students at NU considering the program?

I think CFS offers students a unique opportunity to gain professional experience while enrolled in classes at NU. My advice to students considering CFS is to think of CFS as something different than the traditional summer internship. In a summer experience, an intern is really at the organization to focus all of their energy on specific daily tasks or perhaps a summer-long project. In the CFS internship, students have the opportunity to potentially ask more questions because the organizations understand that they are enrolling in the program to help shape their future career/educational plans. My CFS internship at the John Howard Association (JHA) allowed me to gauge the areas in which I was most interested, and offered more insight into the field of juvenile justice, but also advice on entering the legal field in a more non-traditional capacity like the attorneys who worked at the JHA. There was less focus on daily tasks, but a larger focus on the attorneys being accessible to me if I had questions or just wanted to sit in on a meeting or call that they had during the day. I found this to be slightly different from a traditional paid internship, where employers want to make sure that they have work for the intern to do in order to justify the number of hours worked/salary earned during the internship.

How can CFS students make the most of their experience?

The most rewarding CFS internship is one that allows the student to have a better understanding of the field that they want to go into for their future career, and whether or not it is still one that they want to pursue. Never be afraid to ask more questions, even ones that require more in the way of candor or honesty on the part of the person you are asking. It is important to know both the positives and negatives of a potential career path, specifically if it is one that requires additional training and/or education such as a career in law. From my internship experience, I learned that, while I may not want to pursue a legal career in a traditional law firm setting, I also did not have a particular desire to use my legal education in a more non-traditional capacity like non-profit work. My current interests have led me in the direction of corporate counsel work, and I am fortunate enough to have a position after law school to pursue this interest.

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