Student Internship Stories: Aarthi Gopalan (CAS ‘23), The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI)

CCD: Tell us about your experience. What were your responsibilities?

AP: The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) provides statewide advocacy and leadership in advancing laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities. The Race Equity and Justice Project advocates for people of color and works to dismantle the systems and policies that cultivate racial injustice in our communities. As the Race Equity and Justice intern, I worked with Virginia Benzan to further this mission. The internship involved research, administrative work, community organizing, and writing on advocacy issues in support of low-income Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American people. I worked on launching the Race Equity Library on the Massachusetts Legal Services website, which is an online poverty law library for legal service providers and advocates. I also established the biweekly Race Equity Coalition newsletter, which curates training, surveys community members, and organizes coalition meetings.

CCD: What inspired you to get this internship? 

AP: I chose this internship because it existed in the space of social advocacy through legal tools. I am interested in pursuing a career in legal advocacy.

CCD: What was the best thing about the experience? What was the worst?

AP: The most rewarding aspect of my internship was the creative freedom I had in curating the newsletter and researching for legislative testimony. I was successful in implementing Mailchimp and Canva, which the Racial Justice Project will be able to use in future endeavors. Through the writing that I did, I learned more about communication outside of academic writing. The challenges I faced were primarily a result of the fact that the internship was remote. I feel as though I missed out on opportunities to interact with coworkers more casually and in an office setting. I wish that it felt more like a network and a community. I believe that this limited my chances of getting involved in other work in the organization because I think in-person interactions would facilitate this.

CCD: How was the culture at MLRI?

AP: The culture at MLRI is collaborative, supportive, and inspiring. The attorneys work in different realms (racial justice, immigration, child support, housing, etc.) but unite under a common goal of advocating for marginalized communities. Regarding the structure, there are several different focuses as I previously mentioned, and each focus consists of a senior attorney and other lawyers. There is also a director of the organization. The structure allows attorneys from different fields and backgrounds to collaborate on issues that frequently intersect with each other, which is critical to the organization’s success.

CCD: What’s the biggest takeaway from this experience? 

AP: I have always felt passionate about social advocacy and I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in such an environment. Looking back, I do wish I had engaged more with other employees at the organization in order to understand other fields of legal advocacy. I think that networking is a skill I would like to work more on. I am proud of my work in establishing the newsletter, which did not previously exist. I was able to use my personal creativity to design its look and spent a lot of time making sure that it was an effective and efficient means of communication. I am hoping that in a future internship, I may be able to experience working one-on-one with clients, as that is another aspect of legal advocacy that interests me. I am more certain than ever that I want to study law after my undergraduate degree.

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