Compassion and Patience Communication skills were important for 2L Khadija Dukes, who spent her summer with the Georgia Legal Service Program working on domestic violence matters.
Khadija Dukes is from Conyers, GA. She attended the University of Georgia, where she received a BA in Magazine Journalism and a BA in Comparative Literature. At W&L she is a member of the Black Law Student’s Association, Women Law Student’s Organization, and the Christian Legal Aid Society.
What did you do for work this summer?
This summer I interned in the main office for Georgia Legal Services Program, a non-profit law firm that provides free legal services to low-income Georgians. Georgia Legal Services Program services the 154 counties outside the Atlanta metropolitan area, and also provides assistance for Spanish-speaking clients. Georgia Legal Services Program has several offices located across Georgia including: Albany, Augusta, Athens, Brunswick, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Piedmont, and Savannah. While at the main office, located in Atlanta, Ga, I worked in the domestic violence division.
How did you find/get this position?
I got the position through an alumni referral email from the Office of Career Strategy. I expressed to career counselor Amanda Jantzi that I was interested in returning to Georgia to complete my summer internship, and she, along with Fran Elrod from the Shepherd Program, provided me with opportunities in Georgia and alumni connections. I immediately applied for the position and participated in a phone interview before I was offered the position.
Describe your work experience.
As a legal intern at Georgia Legal Services Program, I performed client intake calls, drafted counsel and advice letters, and contributed an article to the State Bar of Georgia Newsletter on child marriage laws in Georgia. Additionally, I drafted memos on dependency proceedings and the child abuse registry. Further, I contributed research towards disarming domestic abusers in Georgia, as well as towards the Medicaid crisis in Georgia this summer in which 17,000 Georgians were at risk of losing their benefits. I assisted clients in completing legal paperwork, such as divorce paperwork, and I assisted domestic violence clients with acquiring shelter for their pets.
What were some skills you developed this summer?
I improved my writing skills and researching skills through the memos I wrote this summer. The time-frame to complete each memo was much shorter than what I had in school, so I had to learn how to quickly and effectively get my point across. I also learned how to be a better communicator and listener, two skills that are critical for any aspiring attorney. Communicating with victims of domestic violence on a daily basis requires compassion and patience, not only because these clients have been through a horrific experience, but also because you want to get the specific facts about the abuse and how it pertains to their legal issue. As a firm that does not physically see clients in-office, it is vital that you gather all of the facts from the client and really listen to the client describe their issues because most of the communication will be conducted through phone or email. Further, I have learned how to thrive in a fast-paced environment. As a firm that covers such a wide area of Georgia, you will experience a high volume of calls, coupled with the other assignments you may already have, so I’ve learned how to prioritize tasks and to be adaptable.
What surprised you about the work you did this summer?
I was surprised by how grateful and thankful all of the clients were. Each client was just so happy to have somebody hear their testimony and for someone to take the time out of their day to help them get them out of these terrible situations. It was an incredibly humbling experience that really made me feel like I was making a difference in the world.
What was your favorite aspect of your summer work experience?
One of my favorite experiences that I had this summer was going to hear a case argued en banc at the 11th circuit. It was my first time being inside a federal court and it was incredibly beautiful. Seeing the preparation that goes into arguing a case at the federal level was exciting and made me appreciate the hard work that goes into being an attorney.
Has this experience helped you figure out your post graduate plans, and if so how?
This experience has definitely given me a better idea of what I would like to do post graduation and it was an amazing first experience following my first year of law school. I did not know what practice area I wanted to go into prior to this internship, but going into public interest law is a definite possibility for me.
How do you think this experience will shape the rest of your time at W&L Law?
I think this experience will shape the type of courses and clinics that I decide to take at W&L and will help me to seek out more opportunities to get involved in the community and to give back.