Each year, University of Richmond School of Law's Summer Stipend program offers awards to first- and second-year law students with unpaid government or public interest legal internships. Since 1994, the program has grown from supporting six students in public interest summer placements to awarding more than $250,000 to 120 students this past summer. With awards ranging from $1,500 to $2,200 per student, the program enables students to work in otherwise unpaid internships at federal and state agencies, prosecutors' and public defenders' offices, legal aid offices, and non-profit organizations.
Airen Adamonis, L'13, said she wouldn't have been able to accept an unpaid legal aid internship without the stipend. Adamonis spent a busy summer working at both the Attorney General's office and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society's Richmond office. As an intern at Legal Aid, she gained experience interviewing clients, preparing documents for trial, and trying family law and landlord/tenant dispute cases in Richmond's general district court. Having obtained the third year practice certificate, which allows law students to appear before local courts and administrative agencies, Adamonis said she was glad to be able to use the certificate to gain trial experience.
Adamonis said the best part of the experience was representing clients with real life problems. "It's a lot different when you read cases and learn about them in class, but when you actually make a difference in someone's life, it's a completely different experience." She said the internship paid off in multiple ways, including the hands-on experience with the pre-trial drafting process. She also discovered that she enjoyed the courtroom experience, which has prompted her to apply for a judicial clerkship after she graduates in the spring. The public interest job also factors into her long-term plans, which include working in civil litigation.
Liam Curry, L'14, was awarded $2,200 to support his work as an intern for both the Virginia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Virginia. Curry began his summer working with Judge Larry G. Elder, L'75, at the Court of Appeals and ended it working for Justice Cleo Elaine Powell at the Supreme Court of Virginia. There he wrote briefs and writ memos for several cases scheduled for the September panel, including a wrongful discharge and even a death penalty case.
Curry said the best part of his internship was having the opportunity to interact with the judges. Although at first it was a little intimidating explaining the facts of a case to Justice Powell, Curry said he then "realized he was talking shop with a [Virginia] Supreme Court Justice." "That was the best experience for me—realizing that I have captured the attention of a [Virginia] Supreme Court Justice because she wants to hear my opinion on a case." He added, "It was overwhelming how welcoming and respectful they were—they seemed to relish the opportunity to help me learn."
Curry also remarked on the summer stipend assistance. "The program was really invaluable."
Jeff Einhaus, L'14, also spent his summer working as a judicial intern. In addition to working with the Honorable Angela Roberts, Einhaus also had the opportunity to interact with the other four judges at the Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, all of whom received their degrees from the University of Richmond (Judges Richard B. Campbell, L'93; J. Stephen Buis, L'73; Marilynn C. Goss, L'82; and Ashley K. Tunner, L'95).
"Going into law school, I knew I wanted to work in child advocacy in some capacity," Einhaus explained. Receiving a stipend for his placement at the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Einhaus conducted research for the judges and worked in court services intake. But what really elevated his experience was researching Richmond's recently closed juvenile detention home and studying juvenile detention alternatives. "I actually had the opportunity to sit in on several meetings with city officials and present."
For Einhaus, the best part of working for a judge was considering all aspects of the law. "When you're asked to do research on the fly for a judge, you have to think objectively and bring both sides to the table immediately."
Einhaus also found the public interest experience to be extremely valuable. "Taking a summer to work in public interest or government work is a phenomenal way to get in on the ground floor and see what it is that you want to do. Ultimately, without that experience with the judge, I wouldn't have had that opportunity to solidify in my mind that I wanted to become a juvenile and domestic relations prosecutor."
A $2,200 stipend made it possible for Cassandra Edner, L'14, to work for the Legal Council for the Elderly's DC Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, a group that advocates for people receiving board and care, assisted living, and nursing facility care in Washington. In addition to researching federal and state laws that affect LCE's clients, she also worked with some of those clients to resolve housing conflicts. Having helped a man to stay in his nursing home of choice, Edner remarked, "It's nice to know that I did something worthwhile."
Like the other students, this public interest experience helped Edner to envision her future career plans. Although it was her first public interest job, she sees her future working in non-profits. When asked about the Summer Stipend program, Edner added, "It's nice that I could do something that I wanted to do and not have to worry so much about money."