Summer Externship Reflections: Using Legal Research Skills to Support a Large Affordable-Housing Nonprofit

Prof. Neha Lall, director of externships at UB School of Law, asked her students to write essays about their summer externship experiences. Here is one of them, by 3L Christian Caicedo. He is concentrating his legal studies in environmental sustainability and affordable housing, with the intention of working in property development.

Originally from Miami, Fla., Caicedo earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy, with a certificate in Law and Societies, from Florida International University. He has been accepted into the University of Miami’s LL.M. program for Real Property Development for fall 2020.

The bar was on the floor — the bar for my expectations that is. My past work experiences in the legal world had not been a great fit. I had no way of knowing how much better it could be until my experience this past summer.

Christian Caicedo

Christian Caicedo

For 10 weeks, I was a legal extern for Enterprise Community Partners. Enterprise is a nonprofit affordable housing organization, one of the largest in the nation. They have invested billions of dollars into affordable and workforce housing around the country. I got to be a part of that impact.

I have always been interested in housing. My home city of Miami, Fla., is experiencing one of the worst affordable housing crises in the country. In fact, the semester before my externship began, I wrote a research paper into that affordable housing crisis and some of the solutions being implemented to reduce it. One of those solutions involved impact investing, in which Enterprise Community Partners is a leader. When the opportunity to extern with them arose, I knew I had to get involved.

I first applied to the externship after meeting one of the legal assistants at an internship/externship fair at the University of Maryland Law School. He was very responsive to all my questions. I really wanted to know everything that their externs do, and to be certain that I would have an opportunity to make an impact. It turns out that I worked with him almost every day! From that process, I reached out to the attorney who supervises the externs with my resume, other professional information, and a brief note about why Enterprise and its affordable housing mission was so important to me. I got the interview!

Upon starting my externship, I was a little nervous — but mostly excited to be there. All my previous experiences were with small firms (six people or less), so this was my first time in a large corporate environment. On our first day, all the different Enterprise interns met with the CEO and COO of the company to help us understand the importance of the impact we would have on so many people’s lives. I certainly appreciated this welcome and the chance to meet interns from other departments.

Throughout the internship, that positive environment remained. Everyone there works hard, but the importance of our mission is motivating and uplifting. As far as my own impact, the work that I did had a direct one. Most of what I did was legal research and memo writing, which was a welcome surprise from my previous experiences. Honestly, I had become so accustomed to the previous experiences that were all about last-minute items that I finished my first memo way too fast.

This was my first learning opportunity among many that summer. Once I slowed myself down and focused on creating long-term projects, I could see how important my role really was. For example, one of the assignments I worked on potentially saved the company a tremendous amount of money in tax dollars. Another assignment helped advise a fellow employee who was working abroad. My work directly impacted our mission.

This experience changed my career expectations. The working environment is supportive and positive and motivates you to come to work every day. I had not experienced that before. I enjoy doing legal research, and this externship helped me broaden my skills extensively. During my first year at law school, I wasn’t sure if an externship was for me, but now I would recommend it to anyone. Enterprise empowered me to do things I never expected and changed the direction of my career, and I never would have known if I didn’t give it a shot.

About University of Baltimore School of Law

The University of Baltimore School of Law provides a rigorously practical education, combining doctrinal coursework, intensive writing instruction, nationally renowned clinics and community-based learning to ensure that its graduates are exceptionally well prepared to practice law.
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