Fellowship Spotlight: Aaisha Sanaullah at Special Olympics International

August 3, 2020
Rising 2L lands dream internship experience

For Aaisha Sanaullah, L’22, a position working for Special Olympics International was a dream job – not something she had planned for her first legal internship during her summer as a rising 2L student at Richmond Law. But that’s just where she found herself thanks to some hard work and a Summer Public Service Fellowship.

For most of her life, Sanaullah was on a pre-med path. When she made the decision to change course to a legal career, it was because she wanted to impact social change in her professional life. “I always cited Special Olympics or an organization like it as somewhere that I would love to work as a career goal,” she said. Working in collaboration with her career advisor, Carole Yeatts, Sanaullah sent a cover letter to the organization and landed the internship. 

It was a fateful match for Sanaullah, who has been connected to Special Olympics since she was a child. “My brother actually has an intellectual disability himself,” she explained, “so Special Olympics was something I had known about, and was a part of our lives.” Her work has given her an opportunity to combine her passions and her skills. “When I'm reviewing a contract, for example, I'm not working on the ground with the athletes that it's helping. But in an indirect way, kind of behind the scenes, everything that you do, every legal … checkbox that you tick off allows people to have these experiences that are very life changing for them.”

Sanaullah spends much of her time working on contracts. And although she originally planned to work in the organization’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, she was able to adapt her internship to a remote environment. A virtual workplace created some unique obstacles – but also opportunities: “Something that being remote really forced me into doing was just having to dive in, ask questions, and not be afraid to not know something,” said Sanaullah. She meets virtually with her legal team colleagues daily – to ask questions, touch base on projects, and just connect face-to-face.

Working as part of that in-house counsel team, “every day is something different,” said Sanaullah – which means that every day can provide a different learning opportunity. “What I really enjoyed about this internship is the exposure,” she added. “I got to see what it’s like to be a staff attorney for a nonprofit organization.” And it’s an experience that opened her eyes to potential careers in transactional law.