January 5, 2012
Matthew Spurlock, ’12, spent his 2L summer working at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Center for Democracy in New York City. The Center for Democracy is a branch of the ACLU that works to “strengthen democratic values, promote human rights and ensure government accountability.” It includes the National Security Project, the Human Rights Program and the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. The work that summer interns received was largely confined to a few specific, minute issues within the department to which they were assigned. Matthew described the work as 20% case briefs, and 80% legal research and writing.
Although the ACLU’s work is broken down into specific centers, projects, and practice areas, the social aspect of Matthew’s intern experience was somewhat more integrated. Eschewing the cubicle model, the ACLU put all of its summer interns, regardless of their project area, in one room that was affectionately dubbed the intern bed. While this provided a sense of solidarity and facilitated a positive social dynamic among the interns, it also meant that all of their stress was concentrated in one confined area, so Matthew eventually moved to an empty private office as an alternative working space.
Matthew described the interaction between interns and their attorneys as limited, but not lacking. Although he did not receive much oversight or guidance from his supervising attorneys, he never felt unsupported. He recommends this position for people who are independent workers that do not require much feedback. The ACLU did organize a mentorship program that paired summer interns with fellows who were available as resources for work or career advice.
To prepare for any job at the ACLU, Matthew recommends that an applicant learn about federal courts and constitutional law, as well as hone their research and writing skills. For Matthew, this position at the ACLU was the latest step in his efforts to launch a career in civil liberties high impact litigation. Following graduation, he intends to clerk and then hopefully return to the ACLU or a similar organization.
Written by 1L OPIA Section Representative Jessica Frisina.