Princeternship stories: Jessica Quinter ’18, Maryland Disability Law Center

This post was written by Jessica Quinter ’18 after her Princeternship. For more information on the Princeternship program, visit our site.  

Though I did a fair amount of research before attending my Princeternship, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I kind of assumed it would be an average day in the life of any lawyer; some paperwork, some case research, maybe a few phone calls with clients. But the eye-opening, incredible experience I had exceeded any and all of my expectations.

The first thing I was struck by upon arriving at Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC) was the warmth and friendliness of the atmosphere. It takes a certain kind of person to work there, someone dedicated and kind to the nth degree, and that sentiment was palpable. I was first able to speak with a few other professionals working at MDLC, whose jobs were somewhat different from my host (the Managing Attorney). I was allowed to listen in on intake calls, which was an incredibly valuable experience. It gave me a real understanding of the value of the work that MDLC does. I saw how vital and how heartbreaking it all was. I was also able to speak with another person, who worked specifically on promoting inclusion in after-school programs for disabled children. In everyone I spoke with, the definite common denominator was his or her passion and kindness. No one better embodied that than my host, Mrs. Leslie Margolis ’82.

Mrs. Margolis focuses in special education. I was able to attend a meeting with Mrs. Margolis with a parent she was representing (for her child) and the school special education staff, about the child’s school placement. Emotions ran high, and it was rather heartbreaking to watch this child be debated upon. But more than anything, I was struck by how completely dedicated Mrs. Margolis was to advocating for the parent and child, and promoting the student’s best interests above all other possible considerations. It was really illuminating to me, in illustrating just how vital the work of Mrs. Margolis and the MDLC as a whole is. These children, and also disabled adults, though I didn’t see much about that specifically, sometimes have no one to advocate for them. They may fall to the wayside, or suffer abuse. Parents, or other caregivers, may not know where to turn. Some private firms may sometimes seem to hold ulterior motives. Others cannot afford a private attorney, but just surpass the threshold to qualify for pro bono. The help of the MDLC, then, is incredibly important, and that was very clearly demonstrated to me.

My day shadowing Mrs. Margolis at MLDC was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had. It opened my eyes to a kind of law practice that I hadn’t really considered before, which I now see as very rewarding, worthwhile, and important. For myself, I’ve always wanted to go to law school, but been wary of simply joining a private firm. I’ve always been passionate about social justice and civil liberties. I’ve worked as the political intern at the Human Rights Campaign in the Government Affairs Department, which I loved. I’ve always imagined that a path like that would be best for me; being able to lobby for policy for issues I am so passionate about. And perhaps I will still end up somewhere like that, I would still love to. But my day at MDLC showed me another possible path—being a lawyer doesn’t necessarily have to entail private corporate work. There are places like MDLC, where passionate lawyers can also advocate for social justice. Mrs. Margolis also informed me that she was able to do policy work as well, which I hadn’t know or considered. My Princeternship opened my mind to another realm of possible careers in a way that I hadn’t expected.

Shadowing Mrs. Margolis was also incredibly rewarding in that she gave me so much valuable advice. She told me a lot about her own career path, and was incredibly open and receptive to any questions I had. She gave me a lot of meaningful advice, in a way that was very relatable. I really enjoyed my experience shadowing Mrs. Margolis at MDLC, and I would recommend to any student to do the program. Thank you so much, Mrs. Margolis, for the incredible experience!!