Law days of summer: Program offers opportunities in tough job market


 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
Aghogho Edevbie was happy to land a six-week stint as a summer associate with the Butzel Long law firm in Detroit this year. The coveted positions are more in demand than ever, and pack lots of practical experience with a paycheck.
Edevbie,  23, of Novi, has also spent part of the summer interning for Justices Diane Hathaway and Arthur Tarnow and is more convinced than ever that he is headed toward the right profession.
One of those “a-ha moments” occurred while having lunch one day with Butzel Long managing partner Dick Rassel, who talked about some of the philanthropic work he’d been involved with over the years.
 “I realized just how much lawyers can do to help the community at large,” said Edevbie.
The University of Michigan Law School student was among the 95 law school students who attended the Eastern District of Michigan Chapter of the Federal Bar Association’s ninth annual FBA Summer Associate Program on Wednesday, July 20, at the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse.
The networking event was also a chance for the district court judges to offer the associates and interns some practical advice and suggestions.
Before the event,  Judge George Caram Steeh said he planned to talk about civility and the importance of maintaining a good reputation. 
And he said he would try to dispel the uneasiness about the job market.
“From my experience, there’s such a wide variety of law-related jobs,” he said, adding that it may take a bit longer for young lawyers to reach their ultimate career goals than it has in the past.
Judge Avern Cohn, who planned to talk about some of the basics of law, agreed with Steeh that students who found jobs as interns and summer associate have a real advantage.
“It’s a great way to translate what they’ve been learning academically into real life experiences,” he said.
FBA Executive Director Brian Figot said the FBA Summer Associate Program is one of his favorite programs because it brings second and third year law students from diverse backgrounds, various law schools and firms into contact with each other and with practicing attorneys and judges.
“It is through that type of networking that they find a commonality that lasts through their years of practice and hopefully contributes to a more civil practice among colleagues,” he said.
Figot said that summer associate positions are prized because they not only pay well, but often lead to long-term positions with the company.
But these days, there are fewer summer associate positions because there are fewer law firm hires.
“It’s a rough economy out there,” said Figot, who has been looking for a full-time job since late 2010.
Vivian Chang, 24, has worked nine weeks in the Federal Defender’s Office in Detroit. The University of Michigan Law School student said this has been the favorite of her three internships because it’s what she wants to do for a living.
Noting that criminal law is the most engaging area of law, she said she has no intentions of working as a private defense attorney or a prosecutor.  
“I’m only interested in working in the public defender’s office,” Chang said, describing it as a mission for the indigent.
Where does she hope to work after she graduates in December?
“Wherever I can find a job!” she said.
Edevbie, a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from U-M in 2008,  and expects to graduate from the University of Michigan Law School in 2012. 
Edevbie is a first generation American. His parents are from Nigeria, where his maternal grandfather was a federal judge.
“I’ve always been interested in the law, but stories of my grandfather made it more personal to me,” said Edevbie.
Edevbie said his work this summer has given him valuable experience in the private, public, and federal aspects of the law.
He said the motto at the University of Detroit Jesuit High is “men for others,” and that same sense of duty to others is what motivated him to go to law school.
“I have a duty to the public, the Constitution and the law to make sure I uphold the foundation our country was built on,” he said.