Interns' Experiences at Appleseed

Our program provides a unique opportunity for interns to be involved in developing significant impact advocacy including litigation. Below are testimonials from our prior interns.

I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to spend "January term" interning for three weeks at Hawaii Appleseed. I worked on policy research for a very timely topic: shallow rent subsidies as a partial solution to the homelessness problem in Hawaii. My research will be used in this legislative session to hopefully help push forward implementation and funding of this type of subsidy. The office environment at Hawaii Appleseed was very welcoming and friendly, and the three weeks in paradise ended far too soon!
- Marissa Florio, Harvard Law, J-Term 2016

"I speak candidly when I say that working alongside inspirational activists and witnessing the effects of their selfless dedication ranks as the most memorable experience of my summer in paradise." University of Virginia School of Law 2L Caitlin Eberhardt describes her summer with Appleseed: In Paradise, Dedication to Helping Others Shines Bright for UVA Law Student

My internship at Hawaii Appleseed was the perfect way to cap my 1L year. The staff attorneys are among the most committed, hard-working, and knowledgable attorneys I've encountered from any legal organization, and they took the time to provide guidance and input for each of our projects on a regular basis despite their hectic schedules. Each week I was given specific directives in terms of advancing my food policy-related project, but was able to take the lead and work on assignments shaped by my own personal curiosity on certain subtopics that emerged during the course of my research. Despite the idyllic scenery of Hawaii, it is facing a number of critical poverty-related issues that make interning at Hawaii Appleseed a worthwhile experience—as an intern's work truly has the potential to have a far-reaching impact on the local community.
- Veronica Montalvo, 1L, Columbia Law School, Summer 2014


2013 interns in Chinatown

My summer with LEJ was without question the best of my life--and it wasn't just the scenery. I received training from lawyers who've been fighting for justice for many years, and whose record demonstrates they know how to win that fight. Though the environment was supportive, the standards were high by virtue of being surrounded with very smart and hard-working people.
-Matt Justice, 1L Michigan Law School, Summer 2013

2013 appleseed intern elena pacheco Choosing Hawaii Appleseed to host my summer internship was without a doubt the best decision I made my 1L year. Working largely on policy oriented research and writing, my work was meaningful and informative. I was tasked with identifying affordable housing policies around the country and then suggesting how those practices might be adopted in Hawaii. Jenny and Victor maintained the perfect balance of direction and autonomy. I knew what my deliverables were each week, but I was given the latitude to shape the material I was producing as well. In the short two months I was there I had the opportunity to write a series of detailed memos, reach out to potential allies of Hawaii Appleseed, interview federal and local government officials, and attend presentations hosted by many professional organizations. On top of all that Hawaii Appleseed fosters an amazingly friendly work environment where all the interns are encouraged to enjoy their time in Hawaii as much as possible. Anyone interested in learning what it is like to be a lawyer in paradise should not pass up the chance to work at Hawaii Appleseed!
-Elena Pacheco, 1L, Berkeley Law, Summer 2013
Elena also discusses her summer work in the Berkeley Law News here.

Hawaii Appleseed is, to my knowledge, more committed to advocacy on behalf of the poor than just about any organization in the state, and I could not have been more satisfied with my decision to work as a summer intern in the office. Quite aside from the good and in many ways inspiring work which Appleseed does, the internship was meaningful on a personal level, due in no small part to the committed and compassionate lawyers who staff it -- I know of none to compare with these -- and their ethos of social justice, which is the very stuff Appleseed is made of. As an intern, I was assigned to conduct policy research on disciplinary practices in the educational system, but as a result of this, went on independently to explore other areas of research, including educational disparities, poverty, funding, and “education reform,” -- the whole pursuit of which was not only permitted by the staff, but even encouraged and supported all the way through. Rather needless to say, this provided that my work would be, as it was, genuinely meaningful, enriching, rewarding, but not for that matter any less challenging -- and challenging in the ways which strengthen thinking and polish writing, broaden insight and deepen compassion, harden the mind and soften the heart. Beyond this, the cohort of interns was a ravishing lovely group, every bit more inspiring than I, as an undergraduate, had ever expected of lawyers-to-be (such was my impression). Indeed, it was my experience with Appleseed which alone convinced me to pursue the study of law in the future, and I am sure any other student, undergraduate or graduate, would be of a similar mind, inspired, in some ways awed, should they ever decide to intern with the friendliest, most passionate, most committed lawyers I have ever met.
-Kelly Maeshiro, Senior, Harvard College, Summer 2013


picture of 2012 interns

It's one thing to talk 'the talk' about wanting to make a difference. But it takes an entirely different level of commitment to walk 'the walk.' My summer experience at Appleseed taught me how to those transform altruistic desires to effect change into meaningful, significant actions of progress. You become part of the very change that we are all waiting for.
-Zach DiIonno, 2L, William S. Richardson School of Law, Summer 2012

It was an honor to intern at an organization that does such tremendous work for marginalized members of the community. During my summer internship at the Hawaii Appleseed Center I worked with members of the Native Hawaiian community to improve the plight of former paʻahao, whom are greatly disenfranchised after release from prison. This work was not only rewarding, but it provided me with substantial research and writing experience that has been an asset to my academic career.
- Taryn Kaili, Senior, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Summer 2012

Working at the Hawaii Appleseed Center was an excellent experience. I had the opportunity to work with talented and caring community leaders, politicians, and community members on housing projects that were crucial to homeless and low income individuals in Hawaii. The staff at the Hawaii Appleseed Center valued my opinions as an intern, and I was able to offer my thoughts for projects on which my fellow interns worked. From writing a policy paper on affordable housing options for low income individuals to presenting my research to a state legislative committee, the Hawaii Appleseed Center gave me wholly satisfying experience working in a public advocacy organization.
-John Schemitsch, 1L, Fordham University School of Law, Summer 2012

A summer internship at Hawai’i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice is guaranteed to be a professionally valuable and personally rewarding experience. The leadership and staff are knowledgeable and experienced, they value and respect interns’ opinions and judgment, and they care deeply about each other and their communities. Hawai’i Appleseed LEJ is a unique place in that they are a warm community unto themselves while they also remain firmly dedicated to their mission to serve those on the islands who are most in need. While this internship is not recommended for those who are interested in litigation experience, it is ideal for those who want to gain legal research and community outreach and advocacy skills. Interns must be creative, flexible, and willing to tackle any number of issues or projects that affect indigent communities. My summer at LEJ was one of the most precious experiences of my life - in the office and out - and I wholeheartedly recommend LEJ to interested interns.
-Morwenna Steinerson, 1L, CUNY School of Law, Summer 2012

This summer I researched and wrote policy papers, met with legislators and community members, presented my findings to various groups, and found myself learning an amazing amount about the lobbying process and the various tax initiatives I worked on. Working closely with Victor on both a substantive and an organizational level, both my writing and presenting skills improved. The internship I had at LEJ this summer is one I can look back on only with fondness for the work I did, for the people I met and worked with, and for the learning experience I was given the chance to participate in.
-Yonatan Herzbrun, 1L, Brooklyn Law School, Summer 2012



2011 interns with staff pic

My summer at LEJ was an incredible opportunity to delve into public interest law, learn about systemic issues affecting low-income people in Hawai'i, and make a real contribution to this community. As an undergraduate, I gained unique exposure to law and the workings of a nonprofit, extensive experience in research and writing, and met an amazing group of colleagues and friends. Through my research on issues affecting Hawai'i's Micronesian community, I was not just confined to a desk, but conducted work within that community, interviewing a range of individuals. My work allowed me to obtain a deep understanding of the situation of this marginalized migrant group, profoundly impacting me both academically and personally. In addition, the community of people I met both at LEJ and through LEJ inspired me with their unparalleled dedication to public service. If you are interested in public interest law and social justice for the people of Hawai'i, intern at LEJ.
-Anita Hofschneider, Senior, Harvard University, Summer 2011

My summer clerkship with Lawyers for Equal Justice was a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. I came to Hawaii with a general idea of public interest law and walked away with invaluable experience and a new found passion regarding immigrant rights and juvenile justice. From the beginning, the entire office was extremely encouraging, providing guidance while at the same time giving us the freedom and confidence to conduct outreach and attend meetings within the local community. Not only did I learn a great deal from my own research, but the weekly staff meetings really opened my eyes to other issues affecting low-income populations, including public housing shortages and language access barriers. Getting involved with LEJ and their work in Hawai’i was an incredible experience - I highly recommend it to anyone interested in public interest law.
-Kelsy Sargent, 1L, Colorado Law School, Summer 2011

Fawn Jade Koopman"The most rewarding aspect of my summer clerkship was participating in systemic advocacy and observing how impact litigation and organizing for social change can become complementary tools. I enjoyed working for a non-profit organization that is fiercely dedicated to public interest and learning from mentors who patiently guided me through understanding the process and procedures of class action litigation. Although I was aware at the beginning of my law school career that I would work in public interest, LEJ provided me with real work experience and the opportunity to contribute to the social justice movement in Hawai‘i."
-Fawn Jade Koopman, 2L, William S. Richardson School of Law, Summer 2011

"Lawyers for Equal Justice was a one-of-a-kind experience that very few law students get to have. I was able to put the skills I learned in my first year of law school to good use. My projects took me out of the office, to attend meetings at the state capitol, restaurants, and prestigious law offices. My projects also allowed me to improve my research skills and meet numerous practicing attorneys that worked as politicians and public interest advocates. In addition to working on our projects, the summer interns were encouraged to attend a court hearing and a COFA rally for Micronesian rights at the Governor's office. There are not too many legal jobs where you feel like you are making a positive substantial difference in the lives of those less fortunate than yourself. LEJ gives you that opportunity. I would recommend this experience to anyone interested in public interest law."
- Jamie Young, 1L, William S. Richardson School of Law, Summer 2011

2010 interns

My summer clerkship with LEJ was both fun and educationally rewarding. I not only received a valuable introduction to public interest law, but I had the opportunity to work on several substantive issues of importance to the low-income people of Hawai`i. While each intern has a different set of projects, our work often went beyond legal research and writing, taking us out of the office. I participated in outreach visits to shelters, attended a client meeting, and conducted interviews with community members. Because LEJ is a small organization, interns are given sizable responsibilities and our work assignments, by necessity, are meaningful. Interns, moreover, have constant and individualized contact with attorneys. The office atmosphere is laidback, collegial, yet fervently devoted to making systemic change.
-Rebecca Wolitz, 2L, Yale School of Law, Summer 2010

"I loved my summer working at LEJ. I felt encouraged to take responsibility and given a great deal of flexibility with my projects. At the same time, the attorneys would not hesitate to contribute their considerable knowledge and expertise if I had any questions. Working in such a small organization allowed me to see firsthand the many challenges and rewards of advocacy work. I was impressed with the flexibility and resolve with which LEJ approaches poverty law issues in Hawai`i. I would highly encourage other law students looking into a career in public interest advocacy to spend a summer with LEJ Hawai`i. I learned a great deal and my experience has further encouraged me to pursue a career in public interest after law school."
-Dylan Casey, NYU School of Law, Summer 2010.

As a summer intern with LEJ, I learned about poverty law and the unique legal needs of Hawai`i’s low income community. My summer work included analyzing the rights of public housing residents, conducting research on Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment public benefits, and researching and collecting data on Hawai`i’s summary possession (eviction) process for an eviction defense study set to come out in the coming months. I witnessed first-hand the benefits conferred on society and individuals by public interest organizations and legal service providers. My work and the work of the other legal interns laid the foundation for Lawyers for Equal Justice to pursue both litigation and legislative advocacy into the next year.
-Jessica Freedman, William S. Richardson School of Law, Summer 2010.

Matt Choy"During my summer at LEJ I was able to work with a great team of law students and attorneys, collaborating on a study of Hawai`i's eviction process. Although only an undergraduate, I was given substantial writing and research opportunities. The work environment allowed me a lot of independence, but also as much guidance as I needed. The attorneys and law students were always friendly and helpful. I also felt like everything I did was contributing to important reform that would help real people. Perhaps the best thing I can say about LEJ is that if LEJ is what law is about, I would like to go to law school."
-Matt Choy, Senior, Yale University, Summer 2010.

"LEJ provided me with a truly wonderful introduction to public interest law. At LEJ I was able to further develop the legal analytical and lawyering skills I learned during my first year at NYU Law. Not only did I do substantial legal research in a number of interesting areas related to public education and foster care, but I also talked directly to members of the Hawai`i community about these issues, and I felt like I was actually making a difference. Additionally, I was given the opportunity to attend a court hearing, attend depositions, and was able to interview potential plaintiffs for a public housing case. The LEJ staff was always open to my thoughts on any direction I should take in my research, and always made sure that my experience was rewarding. I would recommend an internship at LEJ to any law student with an interest in public interest work, and especially to any students with an interest in helping the under-represented people of Hawai`i."
-Mia Munro, NYU School of Law, Summer 2009.

"I had never been to Hawai`i before my internship with Lawyers for Equal Justice and had no idea what to expect when I boarded a plane bound for Honolulu, but I figured that in the worst case scenario I would spend a summer exploring the islands. At LEJ I quickly became occupied with some on-going projects, and began a research project of my own. Because of the small office it was very easy to get involved and the supervising attorneys were both friendly and helpful. I really enjoyed spending the summer learning about class action litigation and appreciated all the help and guidance."
-Whitney Patross, Cornell Law School, Summer 2009.

LEJ provided the rare opportunity to be truly involved with any and all aspects of public interest litigation. I really appreciated the ability to customize my work over the summer to focus on areas that were of the greatest interest to me. While working on issues of environmental justice, I was able to meet with other non-profit organizations and community groups, leard about the issues and history affecting Hawai`ian communities, and therefore felt as though my research could really be beneficial. I highly recommend LEJ for anyone who desires to work in a small and friendly office where they will be given interesting topics and freedom to customize their research and experience."
-Josh Gange, NYU School of Law, Summer 2009.