Fostering Independence with FedSec

Benjamin Nathan interned remotely with the Federalist Society in Summer 2021. While the virtual mode of the internship meant Benjamin has less interaction with supervisors and co-workers, he had the opportunity to develop independence in this work habits.

My summer as a remote intern for the Federalist Society (FedSoc) has been an interesting one. While this IIW experience was far from a normal one given COVID-19 and its associated difficulties, FedSoc had no shortage of engaging work to assign to me. Before getting into all of that, let’s take a brief look at what the Federalist Society actually is. Generally speaking, there are three primary sections of FedSoc: practice groups, lawyer groups and student groups. Where all three types of FedSoc group organize lectures, panels, and other events that relate to a given topic, practice groups exclusively plan events relating to that group’s theme, which could be anything from civil rights to antitrust. Where the student groups will largely be organizing speaking events, practice groups have a wider variety of offerings, often starting podcasts and creating animated videos relating to a topic that they deal with. Notably, the student chapters can be found at most reputable law schools. Even the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a Federalist Society chapter.

Going back to what I’ve been doing this summer, for the majority of the internship, I have been working on the Comparative Policy Project, which aims to see how Federalist Society speakers’ views have changed over the years. In practice, that meant I would spend the summer reading, categorizing, and summarizing as many Federalist Society publications as I could. Whether it was a three-minute informational video about the implications of a Supreme Court case, or a 90-minute recording of a panel of speakers discussing international criminal justice issues, I was expected to summarize it in full, capturing the essence of whatever the speaker was trying to communicate. That work has undeniably bolstered my ability to summarize and comprehend any piece of written work I come across. Whether it’s a news article, scholarly paper, or something else entirely, getting a sense of both what the author is trying to say, and where in their publication they are communicating the substance of what they’re trying to say is essentially automatic at this point.

Interestingly, FedSoc has taken a hands-off approach with internship supervision as a result of the remote nature of the position. Therein lies the greatest drawback of COVID-19. Despite my job not actually needing any sort of supervision, if I were in the office, I would undoubtably have more interactions with my coworkers. When your job does not directly require you to be in communication with anyone, forging professional relationships over zoom becomes quite difficult. Despite the lack of professional interaction, this experience has doubled as an opportunity to truly become self-sufficient. As a FedSoc intern, I honor every facet of my work as was initially agreed – from clock-in and clock-out times to the substance of the work itself. I do as much, and often even more than was asked of me despite there being no enforcement mechanism whatsoever. That is quite different from my previous professional experiences since I’ve almost always had a supervisor trying to micromanage my work. Resultingly, the shift from overbearing supervision to complete independence was initially jarring. However, at this point in the internship, having worked through it and found new sources of motivation, I can comfortably say that I will be reaping the benefits of this position for years to come. When my time as a Federalist Society intern is over, I will leave the organization with a newfound sense of independence and an undeniably improved professional demeanor.