SRVH College Intern Tales: The Evolution of My Experience

 In Blog, Firm News

Authored by Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison summer college intern William Murphy.

The summer of 2020 was a unique period in my life. I was fresh out of high school, had just been accepted to Morehouse College, and competed successfully for an internship at Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison. At the time, I was beyond excited to have received the opportunity to work at a law firm. There was, of course, one caveat: it would be completely virtual.

COVID-19 forced everyone within the firm, from paralegals to partners, to adjust their lifestyles and routines. Initially, I struggled to imagine how I might fit into such a situation and how I might take full advantage of an online internship. Leah Atkinson, my assigned advisor at the firm, alleviated my concerns by ensuring my participation. She worked diligently to schedule zoom calls, communicate with attorneys, and offer her mentorship. Leah and the Nashville Bar Association Internship Program paved the way for a great experience.

The pandemic was, of course, longer than anyone could have imagined. As a result, I completed my entire Freshman year of college online. Attending college in a pandemic is akin to playing a sport with no scoring or timeouts. The essays were assigned, the math exams were difficult, and networking was necessary, but there were no outlets—parties, friend groups, etc.—to rely on or celebrate. As a result, I was even more excited than before to return to Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison.

The first thing you notice when you walk into a law firm is that attorneys are incredibly gifted and intelligent people. There is a notable distinction between watching Perry Mason and speaking to a group of attorneys daily. I believe there are two things to do when surrounded by people of that stature: you can shrink or grow. I will say I did both. As an eighteen-year-old who had yet to step foot on a college campus, I began my internship with a shrinking phase. It was not for lack of a boisterous personality or because I had a timid disposition; it was because I had much to learn about navigating Corporate America. No one in my family had ever been an attorney or even received a graduate degree. As a result, I felt very out of place and uncomfortable. When I realized this, I became proactive about ensuring I could still be successful.

I knew from my relationships with previous mentors that it was essential that the mentee take the first steps in the relationship. As a result, I networked in the firm as often as possible. In-between assignments, I would ask attorneys to meet for lunch, coffee, or general conversation. Cornell Kennedy was the first attorney I reached out to during this phase, and he gave me extensive advice and recommended other attorneys who would like to get lunch. Over the coming weeks, my confidence grew, and my vision of myself as an attorney continued to crystallize. I also began to get more assignments from the attorneys I’d connected with, and I developed strong relationships that I was able to maintain during the following school year. Near the end of the summer, I could confidently say I grew.

Describing my sophomore year at Morehouse College, an HBCU located in Atlanta, Georgia, would likely require a book to do it justice. It was the single most transformative experience of my life. The conception of the “Morehouse Man” and the institution’s focus on developing you as one permeates every aspect of one’s life. At Morehouse, I received training tailored to my experience and developed an understanding of the various industries and how to navigate them. My extroversion enabled the development of close relationships with people who were equally or more ambitious than I. As a result, my understanding of and approach to Corporate America improved. I believe I saw that most clearly when I returned to Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison this summer.

I began where I left off the previous summer. This time, I was even more driven and excited to connect. I’d developed close relationships with several attorneys and intended to enhance my relationships with people within the firm. I regularly sought out assignments and discussed my interest in legal academia, which eventually resulted in co-authoring a blog post with Will Pugh. The attorneys at Sherrard and Roe were keen to reward my intellectual curiosity and always had assignments on hand when they could fit me in. Now, I am working on two different projects of similar magnitude: one covering the process of forming a Limited Liability Company, and the other discussing telemedicine and special fraud alerts.

Although there were significant changes to my approach, the firm had also changed in many ways. There were more attorneys in the office, I worked more closely with the summer associates, and Rachel, a college intern, was now available to talk to and share experiences. This led to a more collegial environment where I felt more at home.

I just returned from a brief experience at JPMorgan Chase & Co., where I worked for six weeks in New York within their Private Bank. I enjoyed my time there and could not help but think about my experiences at Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison. Working alongside and learning from the attorneys here has prepared me to succeed. I am excited to see what the future holds, and I am glad growth has been the ultimate outcome.


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