Editor’s Note: Each summer Penn Law students hone their skills through a wide array of private and public sector internships across the country and around the world. Generous financial support and fellowships for international and public interest work enable students to pursue diverse assignments in the United States and abroad. This post from Alexis Caris L’21 is one in a series of firsthand accounts detailing how students’ summer employment opportunities are preparing them for their legal careers.
Alexis Caris L’21 is from Aston, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary.
I have always been passionate about the issues that affect women and, by extension, society. As a product of single-sex education and after working in the female-dominated field of human capital management before coming to Penn Law, I recognize the immense misstep we make as a society when we subordinate women to being second-class citizens. I came to law school wanting to lift up and empower women through legal advocacy. Upon arriving at Penn Law, I dove into pro bono work immediately by becoming an advocate in the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic, where I was able to gain substantive client experience through counseling our largely female client base on critical issues surrounding child custody and protection from abuse.
For my 1L summer, I wanted to find an opportunity that would challenge me analytically while exposing me to impact litigation. When I spoke with CP&P about my desire to gain litigation experience and my passion for women’s issues, they pointed me directly to Women’s Law Project (WLP).WLP is a non-profit public interest law firm with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Throughout its history, WLP has worked to eliminate sex discrimination through policy advocacy, high-impact litigation, and community education. This multifaceted approach allows WLP to tailor its strategy to be most effective across various priorities. As a person whose family has lived in Pennsylvania for generations, I feel especially connected to the advocacy that WLP does in my home state. Thus far, I have focused on researching and writing memos in matters relating to access to health care clinics that provide abortions and pregnancy discrimination. I have also helped to compile statistics on parenting policies in Philadelphia schools.
Though I have already gained meaningful exposure to the litigation process in my first few weeks at WLP, my most memorable experience of the summer occurred away from WLP’s offices. In 1999, an investigative newspaper report revealed that, over the previous two decades, the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit had failed to recognize thousands of complaints as crime and investigate them appropriately.After an internal review of cases identified as non-crimes over the previous five years, the PPD concluded that over 1800 of those complaints should have been investigated as rapes and other crimes. At the request of the Commissioner, WLP convened a team of advocates to review files of rape complaints, a review which has now continued annually for 20 years and expanded to include hundreds of files that include additional categories of cases. I had the unique opportunity to participate in this year’s review. We assessed whether the investigations were thorough and free of victim-blaming and other biases against sex crime victims and then raised questions and provided feedback to the Unit’s leadership during a collaborative discussion.
My 1L experience has helped me to make the most of my summer internship. My assignments from Legal Practice Skills were instrumental in guiding me through my first research and writing experiences at WLP. Torts provided a foundation for crafting arguments using precedent-based reasoning. Administrative Law provided me with a foundation for statutory interpretation and understanding agency actions. Most importantly, the supportive and engaging environment at Penn Law encourages me to pursue my goals with tenacity and inspires me to continue to achieve every day.