Duration: 27th April 2015 – 26th June 2015
Over the course of the past summer, I was granted the opportunity to intern at the legal department of International Justice Mission’s field office in Chennai.
I cannot provide any contact details of persons inside the organisation. I cannot, for that matter, divulge the location of the office.
I doubt I will ever forget the seriousness with which the human resources person instructed me to keep mum about the activities at the IJM offices as I signed a confidentiality agreement becoming of a Bond movie.
I had been very intent on interning at IJM and proceeded to sign every document placed before me – the internship contract, the internship rules, the IT agreement, the child protection policy.
This human rights organisation was established to battle global poverty through rescue operations, rehabilitation, and by closely working with local governments and justice systems; interning with them gave me a very enlightening and sensitising experience.
A family friend, working in the Chennai field office, introduced me the director of its legal department, when I had approached the former about a possible internship.
The director had been blunt about not being keen on taking on a first year intern, which plummeted my optimism. Nonetheless, he gave me the contact details of a member of his team and asked me to apply anyway.
I applied in early January 2015, emailing the contact my resumé and statement of purpose, along with a cover letter, following which, I had a telephone interview with her. I was subsequently required to send a writing sample and two reference letters, and because I am a Christian, I was also asked to send a statement of faith.
During a short visit to Chennai in March, I was called to the office for a personal interview. My contact, who would later be my direct supervisor, informed me that I would be required to intern for a minimum of two months; at the time I was much too eager to get the internship, and agreed without hesitation.
I later realised that I could have negotiated a month-long internship instead of working the entire summer away. Anyway, after the interview, I was told that my application would be processed. They reverted with an acceptance confirmation soon after, and I was elated that they took me in, despite my completing just the first year.
The office is spread over two floors, and is well air conditioned; this was a huge bonus, considering the wrath of Chennai summers. My first few days were more of an orientation period in which I was asked to give my signature to the several intimidating documents and then given my call letter.
I was to work under the legal department, consisting of several lawyers, a social worker, and an administrator.
The Chennai field office deals specifically with bonded labour, so my bosses started me off on manuals and case laws on the bonded labour system in India.
I was soon moved from the library to the legal room with the rest of the team, provided with a cabin, a computer with internet access, and an access card to the office premises.
My work days and timings were Monday to Friday, 9AM to 6PM, with an hour-long lunch break at 1PM. The office had a department prayer and a corporate prayer meeting with all the departments from 9AM to 10AM; to my knowledge, the entire office consisted of Christian staff and employees.
However, I am assuming that members of other faiths are welcome to work at IJM, due to the fact that my non-Christian seniors have interned there.
The dress code was Western or Indian formals from Monday to Thursday, and casual wear on Friday. Every Friday morning, the office had a games session, which was just good fun.
The entire staff was very friendly and did not look down on any of the interns; most of the them personally welcomed me and made sure I felt like a part of the IJM family.
Once I got off the training wheels, my main tasks involved researching and writing reports on issues in ongoing cases.
Nearly all of the cases involved the use of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Evidence Act and the Indian Penal Code; these were statutes that were not taught in my first year, so I got a hands-on learning experience of sorts while working on bonded labour cases.
In addition to research work, I got to accompany the lawyers to meet prosecutors, victims and other officials in neighbouring districts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. My workload was rather minimal in May owing to courts being on vacation, but the department picked up pace again by the first week of June.
Although the internship had frustrating moments, mostly due to its lengthy period, I immensely enjoyed working at IJM. My fondest memory at IJM would definitely have to be my birthday, which fell right in the middle of the internship.
My bosses had gone through the trouble of making me, yes MAKING, a birthday card and getting a bouquet of roses for me.
The work environment was very focused-on-reaching-the-target like; but it was also laid-back, chatty, and they took it upon themselves to care about personal things. They were also quite impressed with my work, and also (jokingly, I think) offered me a job with them after graduation.
My contract with the organisation had specified that I would not receive a stipend, but they did give me IJM merchandise on my last day, which was pretty neat.
My bosses were very appreciative, I learned so much while working with them, and more than anything else, being a part of something as massive as the liberation of bonded labourers was a humbling experience.
This entry has been submitted for the LexisNexis-Lawctopus Internship Experience Writing Competition 2015-2016. iPleaders is the learning partner for this competition.