Sam Birnbaum left home far behind when he went to Thailand to spend the summer working for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking. Landing in Thailand, Sam got acquainted with the office, which is small and diverse—with only 15-20 people in the UN compound in Thailand and only about 50 across Southeast Asia, every member of the community can quickly feel at home.
While there, Sam developed legal skills like policy research despite many of his co-workers not being members of the legal profession. In fact, he reports, he developed a lot of confidence in his ability to explain the law to those unacquainted with it, which Sam foresees being useful for the rest of his career. Specifically, Sam got the chance to write reports detailing the impact of corporate disclosure laws on human trafficking in the United States as well as memos regarding human trafficking law in Southeast Asia.
Even if he doesn’t end up in the UN, Sam values the internal knowledge of that organization that he gained while in Thailand. He intends to work in the field of human rights, and he anticipates that his acquaintance with the UN system will prove helpful to him in seeking and succeeding in future work.
Sam always suspected that his long-term interest would be in human rights work, and his research over the summer confirmed that goal. In his upcoming summer (and after graduation), he hopes to pursue some of these interests in more depth.
Despite all of the valuable experience he gained, Sam reports that the greatest part of his summer in Thailand remains the people with whom he worked: the office is small and with low turnover, which means that the group working there develops close bonds and represents an exciting and nurturing environment.
To all of the public-interest hopefuls considering their summer plans, Sam advises thinking about skills and substantive knowledge. Summer jobs are some of the only chances law students have to focus single-mindedly on a project, goal, or organization, and those experiences should be more than just fun: they should add actively to a law student’s arsenal of skills. For Sam—who has appropriate language skills and prior human rights experience—the summer in Thailand fits in neatly with the expected arc of his career, which he emphasizes as significant in engaging in summer work. Sam wanted a “story that makes sense” for his summers—a story that fits with his past and his future in a coherent, useful way.
Written by 1L Section Representative Corinne Smith