I am delighted to be in the inaugural class of the Tom Vaughn Memorial Internship Program for Sylvia Ford Brown, Chapter 13 Standing Trustee for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis. I truly feel that this internship has been invaluable to the furtherance of my career and the expansion of my knowledge of bankruptcy.
I. A Little About Me
To understand how much of an impact this internship has had for me, I must first explain a little about my background. I am a first-generation law school graduate with a background in law enforcement and investigation as a Memphis Police Officer/Detective. Before 2019, I lived, breathed, and slept law enforcement. Despite the negative stigma that Memphis, Tennessee, has, I absolutely love my city and have always wanted to make a change for impoverished citizens. I felt that being a police officer would help me improve my city but I found a need that was rooted deeper in poverty and lack of education. So, I decided that it was time for me to go to law school to gain more knowledge and expertise in order to help my city.
During my matriculation, I decided to focus on corporate law. I happened to stumble upon a bankruptcy course taught by The Honorable Jennie D. Latta, Chief United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Tennessee. During this course, I learned that bankruptcy was not this big scarlet letter placed on the chest of a debtor, but a tool for a new beginning. In my eyes, I had just discovered another way to help my city.
Surprisingly, during my search for an internship in my 3L year, I was offered a chance to interview with a Chapter 13 Standing Trustee, Sylvia Ford Brown. I remember the day of the interview being cold. I was a ball of nerves, and I was not sure if I was shivering from the cold or from nervousness. I wore my best interview outfit, reminded myself to smile a million times, and tried to rehearse in my head clever responses to potential interview questions. Upon entering Ms. Brown’s office, I was welcomed with the warmest smile. Ms. Brown was and is fantastic! I forgot about everything that I had rehearsed and was able to completely be myself with Ms. Brown. Ms. Brown gave me a list of expectations and things to expect of her and this experience. I felt that I was given a golden opportunity.From that day on, I knew that this was going to be a rewarding experience.
II. Opportunities During This Internship
During my internship, I was afforded the opportunity to write several articles; research several Bankruptcy Codes and topics; sit in on bankruptcy court sessions; virtually meet with trustees around the country, as well as other interns participating in the Tom Vaughn Memorial Internship Program; and gain much more knowledge about bankruptcy. The most surprising thing of all, was that I was given this opportunity to do all of these things while studying for the Tennessee Bar Exam. I felt more competent going into the exam because of my experience and research during the course of this internship.
A. Article Writing and Research
During this internship, I had the opportunity to expand my writing abilities. I wrote several articles including on bar diversity in bankruptcy and §302 of the Bankruptcy Code. I spent weeks deeply researching the topics for my articles. I also had the opportunity to deeply research the duty to disclose post-plan confirmation. I gained a wealth of bankruptcy knowledge while writing articles for this internship. I feel that future interns would be fortunate to have the same experience to which I have been graced.
B. Courtroom Sit-ins
One of my favorite things to do during this internship was to sit in on bankruptcy court proceedings. I mostly sat in on Judge Latta’s courtroom because she was my former professor. I felt very fortunate to see her in her element. Judge Latta is extremely fair but compassionate. She is a wealth of knowledge, and to see her put that knowledge to work is a sight to see. I felt that she really cares about the debtor when making decisions. She understands the gravity of her job. I would definitely recommend every future intern to sit in on bankruptcy court proceedings.
III. Bar Prep and Work Life Balance
I completed this internship during an odd time for me. I was a month into my final semester of law school and knee deep into bar exam preparation. Ms. Brown and the other attorneys in her office were extremely helpful and understanding during this internship experience. I was able to ask bar exam questions as well as bankruptcy questions. They were very flexible with my bar prep schedule and encouraged me throughout the study process. I felt that I had a sense of work life balance while completing this internship.
The main impact that the Tom Vaughn Memorial Internship program has had on me is that I became a much more competent researcher. I gained knowledge outside of my written articles because I was allowed to deeply dive into topics that were novel or convoluted to me. I feel that my essay writing improved tremendously. Additionally, I gained an abundance of bankruptcy knowledge in a short amount of time. I was able to see the theories and laws that I learned in bankruptcy course at work.
My advice for future interns would be to be a sponge. There is a great deal of knowledge to gain during this internship. Chase every new lead and see where it takes you. I have truly enjoyed this internship experience and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in bankruptcy.