When Grace Bickham and Ethan Leonard arrived at the Ziff Law Firm in June for summer internships, the rising college sophomores were eager to learn more about how lawyers work and decide whether it’s a possible career path. Now, thanks to their work with Ziff Law partner Christina Sonsire, they’re excited about the possibility of pursuing law degrees.
“Christina helps people all day and working with her has shown me how important it is to do that,” said Grace, a Corning High School graduate and math and political science major at the University of Vermont. “I hope I can do something like that in the future as a lawyer.”
Grace and Ethan attended a high-profile criminal trial for several weeks early in the summer that had an impact on the interns.
For Ethan, an Elmira Notre Dame High School graduate and a philosophy major at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, the trial sparked his interest in criminal law. “It was very emotionally charged and I felt empathy for both sides. It was very educational to watch the lawyers work and listen to the witnesses.”
Christina said the trial gave Grace and Ethan a good taste of how a criminal trial proceeds. “They saw many different expert witnesses from many different fields, and saw some very good lawyering.”
Under Christina’s supervision, the interns are also researching, including assembling information about the substantial verdicts and settlements from the last year in New York state so she can teach continuing legal education classes this fall about civil damages for the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers.
They are also helping her with research as she prepares for trials, and part of that trial prep is presenting the evidence to the interns to get their feedback, giving her the young millennials’ perspective. “It has helped me look at my cases differently,” Christina said.
Christina’s goal for the summer is to expose the interns to as many different experiences as possible. “Even though we only handle plaintiff-side personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice civil litigation, within those cases we have an extraordinary range of topics that we deal with from car crashes to dog bites and many kinds of medical malpractice cases.
“I want to show them that even if you work at a law firm like Ziff Law, you’re still exposed to many different things. I am trying to drive home to them that if they want to become lawyers, it’s important to gain knowledge in every field possible because you never know what field your cases will touch on.”
The internship has been a life-changing experience for Grace and Ethan. Grace summed it up well: “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to law school when the summer started, but this internship really confirmed my interest and showed me that is really what I want to do in the future.”
To contact Christina Sonsire: