Filling the Gaps: SBA President Maya Weinstein’s Firsthand Account of Life Outside the Classroom

June 1, 2020

“I’m grateful for the practical experience I’ve gained through the externship and clinic programs.”

Maya Weinstein 3L

This article is part of the Carolina Law spring-summer 2020 cover story on experiential learning, “Practice What We Teach: Filling the Gap Between the Classroom and Practice.”

Student Bar Association President Maya Weinstein 3L speaks in the law library during University Research Week.

My 3L year was my favorite year. I externed with the UNC System Office of Legal Affairs and worked with local nonprofits through the Community Development Law Clinic (housed out of the spiffy new Institute for Innovation on Franklin Street).

Until you’re standing in front of your externship supervisor explaining a complex legal issue, you don’t realize the extent of what you’ve learned in the classroom. It’s not until a client is sitting before you seeking guidance that you recognize your ability to synthesize vast amounts of information in a split second. The experiential learning opportunities at Carolina Law taught me how to apply my education to practice, exercise diligence in decision-making, counsel individuals with difficult questions, and quite significantly, to trust in myself and my lawyering abilities.

As alumni of the University of North Carolina School of Law, we’ve all sat through doctrinal courses like Constitutional Law, Contracts, and Torts. Whether in hard copy case reporters or online at Westlaw or LexisNexis, we’ve pored over opinions that changed history and the dissents that made us second-guess the mainstream view. And, lest you forget, we’ve all cowered from cold calls. However, I credit the opportunities outside of the halls of Van Hecke-Wettach for providing me with the final pieces of the puzzle to leaving Carolina Law as a zealous, competent attorney.

I’m grateful for the practical experience I’ve gained through the externship and clinic programs. Not only do these programs benefit us as students, but they allow us to support the legal needs of the state of North Carolina at large. My peers in the clinical program help survivors of domestic violence get protective orders, represent low-income former servicemembers before military administrative boards, and assist entrepreneurs with the acquisition and management of intellectual property rights. Through externships, they work in the Attorney General’s office, assist district attorneys and public defenders in court, and even try their hands at in-house corporate counsel work. I don’t even have enough room left in this column to properly explain the ways the Pro Bono Program merges education and public service, but I’ll sum it by sharing that the Class of 2020 logged over 15,000 hours of service and 100% of the class participated.

Thanks to experiential learning, Carolina Law students can give back while growing as legal advocates. And that, my fellow Heels, is the Carolina Law advantage.

Read more from the spring-summer 2020 issue of Carolina Law magazine.