Written by Mai Nguyen
Prior to coming to Jubilee Campaign and Just Law International for an internship this summer, I thought to myself, “I wonder how much I can learn within such a short amount of time.” Little did I know how much the one-month internship has shaped my perspective on the legal profession in general and on human rights and immigration law in particular. Writing this blog post now and reflecting on the experience makes all the memories come flooding back.
I was accepted to work at Jubilee Campaign and Just Law International, P.C., as a Legal Intern in Public Relations, Legal Research, and Immigration Law. Jubilee Campaign is a non-profit organization specialized in advocating for international religious liberty cases, specifically, for individuals from ethnic and religious minorities and those who seek refugees from religious and ethnic persecution. Just Law International P.C. is a small-sized immigration law firm that offers traditional services on all matters related to immigration law, such as employment-based visas, asylum-seeking visas, religious workers’ visas, etc. Both organizations were founded by a Regent Law alumna and operated out of Fairfax, V.A.
It was quite an interesting experience to work for a traditional immigration law firm and a non-profit organization at the same time, as I got to see different but also overlapping areas in the work of the two. I was assigned to two projects for the duration of the internship – one for Jubilee Campaign on an international religious liberty matter, and the other for Just Law International on an asylum-seeking application. The former required me to consolidate information for drafting an amicus brief to be submitted to the highest court of a country on a freedom of religion issue. The latter project involved doing research on the country condition of another country to assist a client’s religious asylum application*.
Since both projects strictly dealt with international law, they gave me an opportunity to complement the research experience I gained in my 1L year that only focused on U.S. laws. In fact, it was a bit of a struggle to peruse various United Nations’ documents, international treaties and agreements, conventions, as well as other nations’ Constitutions and legislations, but I learned that taking one step at a time is helpful. Because the nature of both projects dealt with the issue of freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom of thought, I had a chance to educate myself on the matter. Just because there is a Constitutional provision allowing for such freedom does not always match with the actual reality in the field!
Another lesson I learned was the importance of collaboration. Jubilee partners with various non-profit organizations, NGOs, universities in the U.S. and worldwide, and especially practicing attorneys from the country in which the client is based in. I was able to sit in strategy meetings and got to observe how lawyers of different cultural backgrounds brainstormed legal strategies and theories of the case with one another. It was rather amusing (haha!). While it is true that the legal profession has its own norms, a country’s culture, politics, social norms, and even language can greatly affect how lawyers advocate for their clients.
Specifically, in one of the meetings, I got quite amused seeing how a lawyer that came from a culture in which straightforwardness is expected interacted with a lawyer whose cultural background was not necessarily forthright. I think of the lawyer’s exclamation every now and then, “We know the flaws of the court’s reasoning, and we can certainly attack it head on. But our country’s court session is not argumentative; you have to present your argument like a request!” A request – what an interesting remark! The lawyer meant that the same argument must be presented more in an informative manner so that the judges can see that ruling in our client’s favor would result in a socially just and acceptable result, not so much in the sense of vindicating the client’s individual rights.
Besides the two projects, I also got to sit in various client-consultation meetings, virtual court hearings, and in-person hearings. Interacting with the attorneys in the office and learning from their experience were also a meaningful part of the internship. And with that, four weeks flew by before I even knew it! I am grateful for the hands-on experience and the opportunity to learn more about immigration law and human rights law.
After interning at Jubilee Campaign and Just Law International, I flew to Pohang, South Korea to start my internship at Handong International Law School. At Handong, I worked with various professors and the school’s international law center.
Pictured above: Jubilee Campaign and Just Law International Office
I assisted the professors with different research projects in human rights law, business law, and international law. The internship has also deepened my understanding on certain legal matters as well as helping me grow in other areas. Interestingly, one of the lawyers I got to meet virtually in a meeting when I was interning for Jubilee came to Handong. It was a pleasant surprise to meet the lawyer in person!
Besides the work, I got to explore Korea and had so many delicious dishes – food photos from the trip took up most of my phone’s memory. Featured here are some of the best lattes I have ever had (who would have guessed dates and roasted sesame seeds could make such amazing lattes!). Various types of Korean rice noodles, hot and cold, have surely enhanced my tastebuds. Of course, a trip to Korea can hardly be complete without a proper Korean BBQ.
A few students from Handong International Law School also took us out to have bingsu, a shaved ice dessert. As much as I love the matcha bingsu (green tea), the injeolmi bingsu (Korean rice cake topped with roasted bean powder) was absolutely delicious!
I also explored Pohang and neighboring cities with the other interns, from walking downtown, observing a beautiful rainbow after a heavy rain, enjoying the peaceful sky during sunset, finding a hidden gazebo on the way back from school, to seeing a café at which a Korean show was filmed. I feel grateful for the legal experience gained at Handong but also the fond memories in Korea.
*specific details are redacted for confidentiality purposes.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.