Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Internships - the 13th Amendment Exception

On Sunday, after I returned from the awful fake test mentioned in the entry below, I got to speaking with my landlady. Apparently she is involved in some litigation and cannot afford a lawyer, so she bugs me constantly for legal advice, though she obviously knows that I, being a 1L with no experience in practicing law, can tell her much more about the English common law roots of our legal system than about how to actually argue a real case to a real judge.

Bitter? NO! Well, maybe a little.

Anyway, she's not really that bothersome, and sometimes we just make normal conversation. On Sunday, she told me she knows a federal judge in the southern district of Florida, and she asked me if I would be interested in working for him. Obviously I said I would be.

Then I looked at the website for the southern district, and at their definition of a "judicial intern." Apparently, judicial internships are unpaid.

I don't know what possesses people to become unpaid interns. Perhaps they want the "experience" or to suck up shamelessly to their bosses in the hopes of securing paid employment in the future, but accepting slavery for those goals seems to be accepting harsh means tailored very poorly to the ends supposed to be achieved. If you were really doing good, useful work as an intern, and were therefore serving your employer and providing yourself with experience beyond "how to make killer coffee for the office," it would only be appropriate that you get paid. If you're pretty much an eminently replaceable slave, then you don't get paid.

So unpaid internships strike me pretty much as schemes by employers to get free labor where cheap labor (illegals could very easily complete the stupid, unskilled tasks required of an unpaid intern, and they work for less than minimum wage) is just not cheap enough. But I have a different reason for resenting judicial slavery. My parents are not rich. My rent is extremely high. As it is, I will probably have spent the last of my loan money for this year by June. In other words, if I take an unpaid internship for the summer to get the "experience" so craved by overachieving law school drones, I will have to forgo shelter, water, internet access, and food. I happen to like eating and drinking, and sleeping in a bed, to say nothing of the luxury of checking my e-mail daily, so, sadly, I may have to bag groceries or enter data into spreadsheets for three months instead of actually using the lawyering skills I will have learned by next summer and cultivating new skills so that when I get my JD and pass the bar, I will have some vague idea what I am doing, instead of no idea.

Yep, so when you're complaining at that kid in South Miami accidentally putting your frozen chicken in with your shampoo, go easy on him. He's got a bachelor's degree and one-third of a doctoral degree, and he's damn well earning that six dollars an hour.



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