By DeAna Brunson, 16, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies
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DeAna Brunson spoke about her experiences before the California State Bar Association after taking this internship.

Reprinted from November-December 1995

It is my dream to become an attorney, a partner in a large law firm and, ultimately, a Supreme Court Justice. Being a lawyer is difficult. But I like thinking logically, and trying to use my knowledge to prove something.

I’m not saying that casually. To pick a career, you really have to think to yourself, can I do this? Is this what I want? I know I can make a lot of money as a lawyer, but will I enjoy this?

I started to think about it when I was in eighth grade. I talked to relatives who are attorneys. My grandfather used to be the head of the California State Bar, which is the organization that certifies attorneys to practice law. I learned that you can do lots of different things with a law degree. For example, I have a cousin who works on Wall Street. You can be a judge or help manage a business. You can become a partner—that’s the highest paid and most prestigious position in the company. It would be interesting if I become an international lawyer, because then I could travel.

In ninth grade I got involved with the Mock Trial Program, sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. I learned how the court system works; how you have to respect the judge and you have to back up your points with solid evidence.

I really liked it, so I was excited when my college counselor told me about the Constitutional Rights Foundation’s summer internship program. The program is designed to place high school students in a law firm for the summer.

After I filled out the six-page application, they selected me for an interview! I did well on my first interview at the Foundation. Then I was interviewed by two attorneys at the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in downtown Los Angeles. Man, was I nervous! I was really scared. I entered this huge skyscraper and went up to the 22nd floor and it felt so strange. There I was, a teenager in a busy law firm. But the lawyers were really nice. I had researched the people who interviewed me so I knew who they were when they walked into the room. I wrote an essay about some of my past experiences with Mock Trial and mentioned one of the attorneys I had researched at the library. They said they were impressed by that.

The next step was to wait and see if I was going to be selected. I was so excited when I received the letter from the Foundation that I had been accepted into the program, along with 39 other high school students.

My name was on the door

Then came my first day. I was so surprised when I saw a door with the name "DeAna Brunson" on it. I had my own office with a view of the city, a phone with voicemail and a computer. When people called, they heard: "This is DeAna, I’m not in right now, please leave a message." They had to give us special training just to use the phone because it was so complicated. We received $6 an hour, plus $9 every other week for transportation. That’s the highest salary I’ve ever earned.

I was really lost at first and I kept walking past the receptionist’s desk trying to remember how to get back to my office. I must have smiled at her and said "Good morning" three or four times just trying to figure out how to get back to my office after having a tour of the building. I was the only high school student working there, so everyone always asked me, "What law school do you go to?" It turns out that they had sent an e-mail message to everyone in the firm telling them about me, so they already knew who I was.

Then we got started. The other interns and I shadowed attorneys and attended court, taking notes. We were also instructed to shadow paralegals and legal secretaries in order to understand all the facets of the law firm. Often our daily tasks included conducting elementary research, acting as couriers to the court, working in the law library and copying and assembling documents and sending faxes. Sometimes I did research on judges or other attorneys. I learned how a law library works. It’s really confusing because there are so many books that have similar titles, so you really have to pay attention. Everything has to be in the proper order.

On Fridays all the interns met at the Foundation building for seminars on a variety of topics, such as the importance of being organized, how to set up a bank account and save for college, how to write an impressive resume and how to work through the college application process. A representative from the Princeton Review gave us tips on how to do well on the SATs. All of the seminars were interesting and getting together with the other high school interns was fun after four days of working in an adult world.

Additionally, the interns conducted a leadership conference for students at a number of city high schools. We informed the students and their teachers about the law intern program and presented a demonstration of a Mock Trial. The case we used for the Mock Trial dealt with a pre-meditated murder and I portrayed the psychiatrist. An attorney served as a judge for the Mock Trial.

I think you can tell by this description that they worked me real hard, but they made it fun.

I went to work on my birthday and my supervisor called me back to my office. I thought I was in trouble. But instead they had a huge, beautiful bouquet of flowers for me, and everyone on the floor came to wish me happy birthday. They made me feel at home. They’re not uptight people. They’re really cool. I was even friendly with some of the partners of the firm, even though they’re old. The firm paid for us to go to Disneyland and everything.

Some of the people at the firm had a lot on their minds and were just a little too busy to extend themselves too much. But no one was unfriendly or unkind. It was a great environment. It was a dream-like summer job for me.

After the summer was over, they sent me a T-shirt and a mug in the mail, with a letter of appreciation signed by one of the partners. I made friends among the other interns, too; and we had an awards dinner. I got awards for being "Most Prepared" and "Mock Trial Team Captain." I would definitely recommend this internship for anyone. You don’t have to be interested in a career in law to participate. Talk to your college counselor about it, and have fun!

Having become interested in the legal aspects of communication, she went on to earn a degree in communication at Indiana University. Today DeAna is married and teaches at the Sylvan Learning Center in Culver City. She plans to earn a degree in special education.

About the Internship Program

The Constitutional Rights Foundation Youth Internship Program (YIP) places qualified urban students as paid interns in law firms, businesses, government offices and non-profit organizations. Open to sophomores and juniors during their out-of-school months, the program is offered three times a year to accommodate students in Los Angeles’ year-round school systems. Approximately 120 students participate each year. Each paid internship program lasts eight weeks. Students work at job sites for six out of the eight weeks. During the first and last week and every Friday of each program, YIP participants take part in educational seminars.

To be accepted into the program, students must complete a written application, submit a transcript and two letters of recommendation, write an essay and pass two rounds of interviews.