Beyond the classroom: Internship introduces students to private-sector law
“In law, you initially learn by watching, rather than doing,” explained Joshua Wurtzel ’10.
He should know; the Binghamton University alumnus is a partner with the New York City law firm Schlam Stone & Dolan, as well as a Harpur Law Council steering committee member.
Opportunities to watch and learn aren’t abundant for practicing associates, which is why internships are critical for future lawyers, especially early on. Launched in the summer of 2022, the Law Council’s new Private Sector Law Internship Program gives students these critical experiences in their junior and senior years, and the chance to network and build connections.
Three interns were matched with Harpur College alumni in New York City firms. Michelle Schoenwald, now a senior philosophy, politics and law (PPL) major, interned with Schlam Stone & Dolan, while political science major Kyle Lewis ’22 headed to EnTrust Global, where steering committee member Bruce Kahne ’89 is the global general counsel and chief compliance officer.
PPL major Roman Solano ’22 interned at the InterPublic Group (IPG), an advertising company where steering committee member Andrew Bonzani ’86 serves as executive vice president and general counsel. IPG also employs several other Binghamton alumni, including Paul Curley ’91, Vanessa Eng ’06 and Seth Litwack ’12.
During the 10-week internship, the students engaged in a wide array of tasks and opportunities, from observing court conferences, client meetings, team strategy calls and depositions, to communicating with the court about scheduling and other logistical matters, reviewing court papers, assisting paralegals and even interviewing people involved in cases.
“Up to this point, my life has been the University. But here, the people I was interacting with were paralegals and attorneys with so much experience and a different perspective,” said Schoenwald, adding that the internship helped solidify her intentions to go to law school.
Outside the comfort zone
Alumni attorneys often have their own Binghamton internships to draw on; participating attorneys look to provide similar experiences to the next generation of students.
Although a civil litigator today, Wurtzel interned at the Broome County District Attorney’s office while studying at Binghamton. Today’s private-sector internship program wasn’t available then, but he would have welcomed the opportunity if it were, he said.
Law firms also benefit by hosting intelligent and enthusiastic students, and not just in terms of the work they provide. Prior to the official start of the Private Sector Law Internship Program, Wurtzel hosted a Binghamton intern last summer, who ended up working for the firm over winter break and this summer again as well.
Former interns also may be hired as paralegals once they finish their Binghamton degree, as was the case with Solano, who is currently working for Russo and Gould LLP, thanks to the connections he made during his internship.
When he came to Binghamton, Solano initially intended to become a medical doctor, but found his interests shifting. By junior year, he knew he wanted to become a lawyer.
The internship was a first step toward achieving that goal, he said. At IPG, he learned not only about laws pertaining to advertising and marketing, but also the soft skills of the professional world.
“I learned how to go outside of my comfort zone to do things that I hadn’t known about prior to the internship, and how to network,” he said. “The program was very eye-opening and informative, and the people at IPG are amazing. They’re willing to help you in any way possible while you’re in the internship, and even after. I would recommend this internship for anybody pursuing law, or marketing and advertising.”
Schoenwald plans to make the most of her final year at Binghamton and take a gap year before applying to law school. While she found that law requires a heavy load of research, writing and collaboration, it offers significant personal rewards, she said.
One of the victories of the firm she interned for involved the release of a prisoner from jail, she recounted.
“Today, it might look like you’re just poring over legal documents, but tomorrow, there’s someone going home to their family,” she said. “Nothing can compare to the real-life experience of being in the office and seeing what it’s like. It’s just very different from a classroom environment.”