For the past two years, UW-Green Bay has partnered with the Law Firm of Conway, Olejniczak & Jerry (COJ) to create opportunities for regular summer internships with the law firm. Through these internships, arranged by UW-Green Bay Career Services, numerous students have gained skills, real-world experience, connections and more.
In the summer of 2017, four UW-Green Bay students completed an internship with the law firm. One went on to law school while the other three are continuing their internships into the school year.
According to Kelly Johnson, marketing director for COJ, the smaller, community- based organization offers interns a rich, specialized experience.
“Working at the Law Firm of COJ is more than an internship,” she says. “It is an opportunity for students to test the legal field, and also to experience the inner workings of a professional office and develop the soft skills necessary to succeed in today’s digital world. In the end, we hope to equip them with the problem-solving and communication skills necessary to navigate the world of work.”
An intern could assist attorneys and paralegals in preparing binders with legal documents which familiarizes them with legal jargon, documents and processes. They also help to staff the reception area where they interact with clients and other constituents as well as manage the flow of traffic in and out of the office. They are responsible for walking and driving errands every day, some of which are very time sensitive.
“On any given day they may visit the Clerk of Courts, Judicial Staff Offices, Register of Probate, Register of Deeds, etc., Johnson says. “Many times attorneys and paralegals will ask them to help out with special projects as well. For example, Tara has experience with medical billing so she has helped on projects related to that before. Lidia works mainly for one of our business attorneys and so is usually pulled into projects with him.”
Interns are also provided with numerous networking opportunities. The exposure to an array of people and careers in the Greater Green Bay area can help the interns build connections for the future, and even help students find a career path that is right for them.
“Networking and experience have to be the most beneficial aspects of my internship,” said current intern, Sellen. “This exposure to different areas of law lets me get first-hand experience and make a decision as to whether it is an area I would personally want to pursue in my career.”
It was also through the internship program with the Law Firm of COJ that intern Kwynn Carter, discovered the career path that suited her best ー and it wasn’t law.
“This internship helped me confirm that law was not the career for me after I interviewed a few attorneys about their work,” Carter said. “However, it was also through these interviews that I learned about my current career path in Family Therapy. My internship helped me network with local Green Bay family therapists who I am still in contact with today.”
So far the partnership has been beneficial for everyone involved. Employees of COJ say they have been very pleased with the interns that have been hired from UW-Green Bay and hope to continue getting a steady stream of interested students.
“One of the things we want students to know is that while we are a law firm, it is not necessary that students have an interest in the legal field. More than anything, we seek interns who are self-motivated and ready to learn. Our firm has a lot to offer a student who enters the experience with a determination to build relationships, step outside their comfort zone and go beyond the basic duties,” says Johnson.
A “sense of community” is what intern Lidia Zurcher values at COJ. “What I think was the most unique thing about this internship was the sense of family and community within the law firm. Everywhere you turn there is a smiling face, willing to help you with anything you might have a problem with.”
Students that are interested in an internship with the Law Firm of COJ are urged to contact Johnson at any time whether there is an internship available or not. Students can also contact Director of Career Services, Linda Peacock-Landrum, who promotes the internships on campus and makes site visits.
“We welcome an email or phone call from a student who wants to know more about the legal field, working in a law firm, attending law school, etc.” she said. “Take your career into your own hands and start to ask questions, find the experts in your field and build up your network well before you need it.”
Story by Marketing and University Communication intern Amanda Rice. Photos by Marketing and University Communication intern Amanda Jo Danihel.