AAJ member John Feroleto and his wife, Judge Paula Feroleto, knew that high school graduation rates in Buffalo, New York, were low and that many of the city’s residents were struggling financially. “Buffalo is the third-poorest city in the country,” John Feroleto said. So they set out to create opportunities for youth in the community.
They launched a law intern program to introduce high school students to the practice of law. Now in its third year, the program pairs high school juniors and seniors with law firms for summer internships. It allows lawyers to mentor students, and it gives the students experience working in an office and an inside look at how the legal system works.
Students start with training in the county clerk’s office, then typically work 16 to 20 hours per week earning at least minimum wage. Some students maintained part-time jobs with their firms after the summer program ended.
Interns may run errands to the courthouse, help with filing, and accompany lawyers to court. One intern, who worked at the firm Lipsitz Ponterio, designed a logo that the firm has used in marketing materials.
Many people say they want to help their community in some way but don’t know what to do, Feroleto said. Setting up an intern program “is easy, it’s inexpensive, and you can help a kid who really needs it,” he said.
“We as attorneys tend to get isolated,” he added, “but there’s more that we can do.”
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