No Small Roles in Changing Lives

This week we’re giving another shout out to the West Coast, and cheering on Project SELF, a joint effort of the Orange County Bar Foundation and the Orange County Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. Since 1995, Project SELF (Summer Employment at Law Firms) has offered motivated, disadvantaged, high school juniors from the Santa Ana Unified School District (the largest in Orange County) the opportunity to complete an eight-week paid summer internship at one of 50 area law firms. At a critical time – when decisions about life after high school begin to loom ominously – firms like Allen Matkins offer students the chance to see how a law firm operates first hand, and to participate by sitting in on meetings, filing, attending court proceedings, and more. They’re encouraged to jump in, take initiative, and become part of the team, while gaining the exposure of just what kind of career options are available to them as a benefit of pursuing higher education. For many of these students, it’s a revelation whose impact will be felt for years to come.

What we love about the project is that the glory is not reserved only for the attorneys. Project SELF is also about the administrative side of the law, so all staff at the participating firms have something to share with their student interns. It ties into that triple bottom line concept of serving the community, while also building a bridge between attorneys and staff by involving both groups in the efforts, and not just one or the other. This collaboration has not gone unnoticed. As intern Paulina Jaimes observed during her eight weeks, “No one ever has a small role.”

Since the project’s inception in 1995, some 700 students have been employed and inspired by Project SELF. That’s something to be proud of for every member of the participating firms. We salute Project SELF, the Orange County Bar Foundation and the Orange County Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators for their fantastic work with the lawyers and legal professionals of tomorrow.

Does your firm participate in a similar community effort? Let us know in the space below.