Name: Delaney Wells ‘20
DC Internship: The Department of Justice, Disability Rights Section
1. What were you up to this past semester?
I worked as a legal intern in the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice. Interns came in before attorneys, architects, and investigators to begin work. My supervisor collected projects and tasks from other employees and assigned them among interns. This ensured we all had the opportunity to work on different cases concerning the ADA. I worked on a variety of projects at the same time, keeping my supervisor updated on my status through a spreadsheet tracking my progress. We reported directly to the attorney overseeing our project. This allowed me to establish excellent working and personal relationships through setting deadlines, editing assignments, grabbing lunch and even attending an oral argument at the Supreme Court together. I took advantage of opportunities including brown bag lunches with attorneys, a special tour of the White House, and attending working groups with different agencies. These allowed for a holistic understanding of the Disability Rights Section, the organization of the Justice Department, and the inner-workings of politics in the Capital.
2. What was your favorite part?
I was able to complement my time at the Justice Department with sharing time in a local L’Arche community in Arlington, VA. This allowed me to achieve a holistic approach to disability through technical and social perspectives. Sharing life in this home throughout the semester gave me a deeper and more complete understanding of how the work done by lawyers, architects, and investigators impacts the daily life of citizens. Along with interning every day, I spent my Fridays and weekends at the L’Arche 6th Street home in Arlington, VA. Sharing time with the core members has provided a social dimension to complement the technical understanding of disability that I have gained through the DOJ. Learning about accessibility challenges, institutional conditions, rights and regulations introduced in Section 504 all come to life when I go to 6th Street and witness the struggle that many core members work through each day. From voting poll accessibility to lack of ASL translators at medical facilities, I have gained a full appreciation of the importance of the work within the Disability Rights Section. The complementary technical and social dimensions allowed me to begin discerning my vocation through practice of techniques I have learned on retreats and in spiritual groups on campus. My mind often jumped to the questions, “who am I, who do I want to become, and who do I want to be for and with others?”. I am leaving with some sort of understanding of the direction my life may take in disability advocacy. I will take this semester to reflect intentionally on my experience and see how it shapes my future regarding law school and further involvement in area of disability study, which is where I have truly found my home.
3. What surprised you?
I expected to work exclusively with lawyers each day as I was working in the Justice Department. However, this was not the case. Each day was totally different and I never knew what to expect. I was able to work on a case being actively litigated, with architects, service animal cases, and more. The variety I was amazed at the amount of case work we were able to work on throughout the semester. On a day to day basis I worked on several memorandums for attorneys. These assignments allowed me to hone my writing skills and analytical thinking. I learned how to blue-book, a type of legal citation, when citing violations for a settlement agreement. I became acquainted with the Westlaw, Relativity, and Lexis platforms when performing background research on witnesses for a case that is being actively litigated. The varied experience I had at the Department of Justice has resulted in an ultimate understanding of the American Disabilities Act and its impact on citizens through advocacy as a platform for equality. I was treated like another employee within the Justice Department, not just as an intern.