One of the main reasons I applied to University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law was the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic. I had been working in and around the Legislature for about six months when I began applying to law schools, and I saw that McGeorge School of Law had a lot of offerings for people who wanted to engage with and learn more about the legislative process. When I learned about the Clinic, I knew right away that if I got into McGeorge it would be something I had to do. The opportunity to propose and pursue a new public policy that I truly cared about was a dream come true for me.

In my second year, I took Lawmaking in California, a course where you get to write a bill of your own creation. I decided that I wanted to write a bill that would try to address the problem of unpaid internships in state government. I knew from experience the frustration of working for no pay, the feeling that I was not valued even though I was contributing valuable labor, the anger that no generation before mine was told they weren’t worth paying, and the gall at those who’d tell me that “experience” was just as valuable as paid compensation.

At that time, I had been an unpaid intern in the Manhattan office of Sen. Chuck Schumer, twice in the California State Assembly, and most recently for the California Department of Public Health’s legal office. As of now, with yet another unpaid internship under my belt, I’ve put in nearly 1,500 hours of work as an unpaid intern. Even at the federal minimum wage, I’ve missed out on nearly $10,000 of earnings, and I’m one of the lucky ones privileged enough to have taken these internships at all. You can’t pay rent with experience.

When the Clinic started, I knew I wanted to pursue this further, and now we have a wonderful sponsor, Pay Our Interns, as well as a proposal to address this glaring gap between our values as a state and the status quo. The Clinic has taught me many things, but most of all I’ve learned the importance of constant communication with your allies and moving with purpose. The process moves quickly and there are a lot of people competing for time and attention, so it’s crucial to stay on top of new developments and adapt. Having great partners that you can rely on makes all of it much easier, so I really have to thank Matt Urban and Mark Cayaba for all their help, as well as everyone at Pay Our Interns who have been incredible throughout the process.

To anyone at McGeorge or applicants interested in policy and government, I highly recommend participating in the Clinic. You won’t be disappointed.

By: Steven Weiss, third-year law student