Monday, September 17, 2012
My 1L summer internship experience at BP America Inc.
My 1L summer, which ended a few weeks ago, was memorable. Not only was I thankful that I had emerged alive at the other end of the first year of law school, I was also incredibly fortunate to receive an offer from BP to be one of its two legal interns at its Naperville-Chicago offices. The internship is supported by the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiative of BP's Legal Department, and applicants are required to demonstrate a commitment to D&I.
Being a BP intern was a privilege with huge benefits. As everyone who's ever been a law student probably knows, there are very few 1L internships. Of those available, most are unpaid, or at best, minimally paid. Not only does BP add some serious weight to one's resume, it also provides a healthy salary and a tremendous learning opportunity.
To begin with, all the legal interns (five across the company) were taken to corporate headquarters in Houston for a week of orientation. The orientation included such onerous tasks as a steak dinner at one of Houston's finest dining establishments, and a day in Galveston visiting the Offshore Drilling Museum and lunching on fresh seafood by the ocean.
On returning to Illinois, I was immersed in the work-world of BP's attorneys -- all of whom have impeccable credentials (Managing Editor of Stanford Law Review! Undergraduate degree from Yale! Taught at MIT! Formerly of Katten! Formerly of Sidley! Formerly of Jenner & Block! etc.). I rotated through all the practice areas in the Naperville-Chicago offices, spending one week in each. Devoting time within many areas and watching attorneys interact so closely with their clients (in some cases, they literally work in the same room) taught me volumes about the practice of the law. Some lessons were unique to the corporate counsel experience. For instance, I was invited by one of the attorneys to a day-long Incident Response Seminar at which several business units strategized on how to respond to an incident, and I saw where and how Legal fit into that plan. It was an experience unique to a major corporation with a large in-house legal department like BP, and it gave me a very specialized perspective.
BP went to great lengths to groom me for my legal career. I went through a resume review, a session on interviewing tips, and three mock interviews towards the end of my internship, to help prepare me for my future job search. As an intern, I was partnered with an attorney who was my "buddy" and my main contact. He would stop by my desk every day to chat, give me pointers, and answer questions. I went into his office often -- to talk about my interests, ask questions about firms, and discuss the law school experience. He pulled me into meetings with clients, external counsel, consultants, and other attorneys within the group, and patiently cleared the fog that often clouded my mind. He provided a wealth of advice and encouragement, and always had time for me. I was assigned another attorney for my summer project -- a comprehensive presentation on a consent decree. She made time to explain complex technical matters to me, took me to meetings with the client, reviewed my draft, resolved my confusions, fielded the tough questions at my presentation, and was unfailingly supportive. Throughout the legal department, no door was shut to me. People were friendly, cheerful, and always ready to feed me lunch.
Thanks to BP, my interests have broadened. In particular, I hope very much to be involved in D&I initiatives wherever I work. Before my internship, I didn't even know that such an area of activity existed within a business organization. BP not only taught me about its existence and its visibility, it also showed me how much of a priority it can be to an organization. BP has shown me what D&I can look like within an organization, and I plan to build on that experience.
Without the least bit of exaggeration, I can say that I loved every single day of my summer at BP. I created friendships, built connections, and was part of the legal team of one of the largest corporations in the world. It was, without a doubt, the 1L summer of my dreams.
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