Last summer I wrote about my month with a litigation support newbie. It was my first time hosting a student intern from the paralegal studies program at Georgetown University. You can read that article here. Over the last year, Elizabeth completed her Project Management Masters program in Boston and then she took and passed the PMP exam. Yay! I'm so proud of her. She has been able to visit me in DC several times over the last year. So far, I haven't been able to convince her to move to DC, but I am not giving up.
This summer I had the opportunity to host another student intern for 4 weeks. I was excited to find out that Sheneika lives in Maryland so she and I could more easily stay in touch after her internship. I found out later that Sheneika took the paralegal program at Georgetown specifically for the eDiscovery / Litigation Support / Legal Project Management courses offered during the second half of the 12 week summer intensive program. While Sheneika already had experience as a project manager, she had a desire to work in the legal industry and she was pretty sure her technical skills would be good enough to become a litigation support newbie.
I received a copy of Sheneika's resume about 2 weeks before the internship. I reviewed her job history on her resume and I also reviewed her LinkedIn profile, including a few recommendations from previous work colleagues. My first reaction was that she writes very well. That is a really good quality for a career in litigation support. She is in her early 30's and she had changed her career path along the way, so I was looking forward to hearing more about her experiences and her thought process in choosing the paralegal program.
About a week before the internship began, I received an e-mail from Sheneika. It was a brief introductory e-mail and she asked about her first day in terms of logistics. At this point, I thought to myself “she takes initiative.” Initiative is a good quality for a litigation support professional.
The Saturday before the internship began, I attended the last class of the Legal Project Management course. I participated on the panel answering questions from the students and then I stayed for a while later to assist their professor in providing feedback on the students' legal project management presentations. As I watched Sheneika and her fellow classmate give their presentation, I thought “she is nervous, but she handles herself quite well”. All of the students are nervous giving these presentations because they do not the topic very well at this point.
Over the next 4 weeks, Sheneika and I spent a lot of quality time together. She sat right next to me at my desk. I turned my monitor towards her and much of the time she used my mouse and keyboard while I taught her the job. She watched all of my e-mails to the vendors and legal teams. She listened to all of my phone conversations with attorneys and vendors.
As I mentioned in my article last year about the previous internship, mentoring a newbie at this level requires a lot of patience and is very time consuming. Sheneika took a lot of notes (this is an excellent quality to have). We kept referring back to her notes and tweaking them so that they would hopefully make sense later. As I guided Sheneika through the workflow of my day, I kept mentioning that “this is my anal way of doing things”. I told her that when she is in the job herself, she can decide if she wants to do things differently or follow my lead. What I appreciated about Sheneika was that she was always very respectful of my rituals and workflow.
We were able to cover a good deal of database work while she was with me. We both think that she was able to grasp much of the database concepts by the end of the third week. Her instincts were good. Her knowledge retention was good. There were some tough days where the light bulb took longer to go off, but I didn't give up on her and she didn't give up on herself. I patiently waited while she checked her notes or clicked around, trying to remember the next step.
One thing that was important to me was that she would be able to describe in an interview what she has learned in a very concise manner. You only have a short time to impress a potential hiring manager. So we practiced several times. I asked her to go through her notes and summarize what she learned at each stage. She was very dedicated. She took that homework assignment seriously and a few days later when she went over with me what she wrote, I was so proud of her. She was excited that the snippets of knowledge were starting to come together and make sense.
There were days that we worked right through lunch. I kept watching the clock on the computer and she would keep saying “what's next?” I chuckled to myself because she was a sponge, wanting to learn as much as she could. At 2:00 or 3:00, I finally said “let's go get some food”. Ha! At the end of the day, I wanted to go home but Sheneika didn't want to stop. Her work ethic was excellent throughout the entire 4 weeks. Work ethic is essential in the field of litigation support.
We went to lunch together every day. I set up several lunch dates for her to meet some of my friends in the industry. Some days some of the other student interns joined us for lunch. I also scheduled several lunches and dinners to introduce the current students to former Georgetown students and to introduce them to Janice James (see LitSuppGuru Podcast Episode 2). My favorite part of our lunches together was that Sheneika and I both like all kinds of food. We had some very tasty meals together while getting to know each other more and more each day.
Sheneika is a beautiful person inside and out. She dresses impeccably and she is a professional. I was impressed with her positive attitude every day. She has a tinge of sarcasm in her which fit very well with my own sarcasm. By the end of the 4 weeks, I was absolutely convinced that Sheneika will be a really good asset to a litigation support team. She will not let anyone down. She is very organized and she has very high expectations of herself. She can't do anything half-ass. She is a kind and generous person. Any team would be lucky to have her and I wish her the best of luck in her career.