Learning on the job

From law firms to nonprofits to courtrooms, Loyola students gain practical experience in summer jobs

When 3L Justin Sia was asked to complete two significantly dissimilar assignments as a summer associate at the Chicago office of international firm McDermott Will & Emery, he used what he’d learned in the Loyola classroom as a basis for the work.

In one assignment, Sia assisted in editing a complex employment contract based on client negotiations. For a pro bono project, he helped an attorney who’s representing a young man escaping violence in Guatemala and seeking asylum in the United States. “For both of these starkly different tasks, I relied on skills I’d built in my Loyola courses,” Sia says.

Sia is one of the many Loyola law students who bring their classroom learning to life through summer associateships, internships, and externships. In law firms, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and courts, students get valuable hands-on experience that builds practical skills and confidence.


Employment rate 10 months after graduation


students studied in China and Italy through the School of Law’s education abroad programs

Benefits that go both ways

Brenda Alvarez, a 2L, spent the summer as a judicial extern for Justice Jesse G. Reyes of the Illinois Appellate Court, First Division. “I took an evidence course this summer and it complemented what I was doing in my externship really well,” she says. “Learning things in the classroom, then seeing how someone’s using them in real-world practice, helps you see the nuances.”

3L Hannah O’Keefe was a summer intern for Legal Aid Chicago, formerly known as the Legal Assistance Foundation.

“Effective lawyers need a combination of practical skills. A hands-on internship is the best way to gain those skills,” she says. “It’s so much easier when you have a really solid base of doctrinal knowledge to build from. My Loyola employment law and legal writing classes, as well as an immigration law practicum, gave me a base for some of the work I did this summer.

“But it goes both ways,” O’Keefe continues. “Once you have experience in the field working with clients on actual issues, you have a deeper understanding and knowledge that will enhance your classroom experience going forward.”

I’ve built a breadth of skills. It’s setting me up to be as strong an employment candidate as possible after graduation.
— 3L Hannah O’Keefe

Solid practical experience

At their summer jobs, Loyola students gain meaningful experience under the supervision of attorneys who are dedicated to building future lawyers’ capabilities. Alvarez’s tasks this summer included conducting research for cases, as well as drafting practice memos and summaries Justice Reyes’ clerks drew from for the actual documents. “I got very valuable feedback from people at the top of their game,” she says. “The lawyers critiquing my writing are really good at the craft.”

Besides honing her writing skills, a judicial externship “let me see a variety of areas of the law in practice and helped me decide what I want and don’t want to do after graduation,” says Alvarez. “For example, I know I don’t want to be in criminal law. I do know I’d like to work for a firm that works me hard but allows me to take on pro bono cases as billable hours.” 

The Legal Aid Chicago immigration and workers’ rights practice group in which O’Keefe interned has four often overlapping subcategories—one focusing on immigrants who are victims of domestic violence and other crimes, a second addressing human trafficking, a third centered on migrant farm workers, and a fourth that covers employment in general, often separate from immigration.

Her assignments included writing research memos, observing a phone hearing and a mediation at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accompanying attorneys to interview crime victims who are undocumented immigrants, and even handling a U Visa (a nonimmigrant visa designed for victims of crime) from start to finish.

“My goal was to get exposure in all areas of the practice group,” says O’Keefe, who says the internship experience has only strengthened her existing interests in a public interest career, possibly in immigration and employment law. “I’ve built a breadth of skills. It’s setting me up to be as strong an employment candidate as possible after graduation.”

Making a real impact

McDermott Will & Emery, the firm where Sia was an associate, “is really open to having its students gain real-world experience immediately,” he says.

He was housed in the firm’s corporate and transactions group and also helped with the private client group. “I did work similar to a first-year associate’s—preparing minute books to help sell a company, creating an LLC, and transferring stock, for example,” adds Sia, who has accepted an offer to join the firm as an associate after graduation.

“The experience was really exciting; as a rising 3L, I helped draft legal documents for multibillion-dollar, household-name clients. It was great to know the work I did made a real impact on the clients I served.”

Diverse Opportunities

Some of the other jobs Loyola law students held this summer:

  • Denver Water, Law Clerk
  • Calabrio Inc, Law Clerk in in house legal department for software company
  • Federal Public Defender for the Northern District of Texas, Intern
  • HUD Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office, Legal Intern
  • Vedder Price, Summer Associate
  • Drinker Biddle, Summer Associate
  • Clark Hill, Summer Associate
  • MALDEF, Legal Intern
  • Justice Matters, Law Clerk
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Judicial Extern


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