Jamison Shabanowitz '15L
With the help of the A. Paul Knight Program, I experienced a summer internship on the front lines of an environmental non-profit organization and confronted many different issues in different capacities. As a result, I am a more effective and versatile environmental advocate.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national organization based in Washington, D.C. representing local, state, and Federal employees when there are environmental and ethics violations committed within their workplaces. PEER provides legal protection for employees reporting environmental violations of their employer, litigates Freedom of Information Act issues related to the environment, and ensures that all public employers follow applicable environmental law, all free of charge for the party raising the complaint.
At PEER, I performed tasks common in a legal internship such as drafting complaints or composing legal research memos. Throughout the summer, my supervisor and I communicated with clients about legal strategy. I experienced what I had assumed upon entering law school: Not every client enters into an agreement with all the information for an easy case. For instance, a client may have mistakenly emphasized one aspect of a case that is not as relevant as another aspect. It is up to a lawyer to take notice of a client's misunderstandings and fix them. I developed a greater trust for the legal training I received at W&L because I relied on it at times during my internship.
In addition to these requisite duties, I also took advantage of PEER's call to start new projects and began my own investigative study involving new whistleblower protection laws. One new law directs agencies to expand whistleblower protections to contractors of the federal government. Another requires the designation of a Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman within most Offices of Inspector Generals. Through emails, phone calls, in-person meetings and FOIA requests, I administered my own investigation to find out whether certain agencies are following the new statutes. Investigating agency activity relating to these laws will help PEER's audience learn about whistleblower protection in their agency of interest. My supervisors encouraged my work on this project, and will continue it over the coming months.
I enjoyed the independence I had working at PEER. While other employers may have confined a legal intern to certain innocuous projects, a non-profit like PEER brought me an exciting sense of vulnerability that fueled my work product. PEER relied on me to meet their goal of championing public employees who risk their livelihoods for environmental and ethical considerations. Without the A. Paul Knight Program's support, I would not have had the financial means to create the work product that enhanced a uniquely effective organization like PEER.