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Law School News

STCL Houston Pairs Student Interns and Clerks with Law Firms in Cost-Saving Partnership for All

The legal industry is changing rapidly. It’s a phenomenon that has been broadcast in publications from The American Lawyer to The Wall Street Journal. Technology has increased the pace of practice, clients have more demands and higher expectations, and workloads are piling up as a result. Today’s firms and practitioners are pressed to find a balance among staffing, efficiency, and costs.

South Texas College of Law Houston (STCL Houston) interns and clerks can help bridge the gap by providing effective, competent help with research and drafting motions, memoranda, briefs, and complaints, among other daily tasks. Additionally, hiring student assistants who qualify for federal work-study (FWS) funds now can provide added savings for firms, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

Under the program, the law school draws on FWS funds to subsidize hourly wages for eligible first-, second-, and third-year student workers. Participating students earn $13 per hour, with the employer paying a fraction of the total, as determined by organization type; nonprofit and government agencies pay 25 percent of the wage, or $3.25 per hour, and private firms and businesses pay 50 percent, or $6.50 per hour.

For Armen Merjanian ’12, who runs a solo criminal defense practice, the FWS program has helped him stay competitive, maintain work-life balance, and take on more cases this year. As he has done each year since beginning his practice, Merjanian hired a paid student clerk through STCL Houston’s Career Resources Center office last summer. He selected Lauryn Burt, a second-year student with a strong interest in criminal defense.

“Lauryn had a very intentional and narrow focus on finding an internship in criminal defense,” he said. “I knew from her interview that she was fully invested. After working with her over the summer, I also found her to be incredibly caring and hard-working.”

Merjanian wanted to keep his intern on staff after the start of the school year, but needed to be mindful of his business costs. He encouraged Burt to apply for FWS funds, and she did. Burt now works 20 hours per week in Merjanian’s Fort Bend office — a win-win for the pair.

“I’ve learned so much from my work with Armen, and it translates in my coursework,” Burt said. “I took Evidence this semester, and it was so interesting to hear my professor talk about different methods of proving up a case and be able to recognize examples from my clerkship.”

For Merjanian, participating in the FWS program as an employer means better results and an increase in business.

“I’m training Lauryn like I would an associate,” he said. “She takes on tasks that I would otherwise have to spend time on. She’s been an invaluable contributor, and work-study has made it possible for us to continue working together.”

The STCL Houston Office of Financial Aid and Career Resource Center work together to administer the FWS program. Their staff can provide additional details and help attorneys hire the right student employees for their individual organization’s needs. For more information, contact Emily Sillcocks, senior director of Financial Aid at STCL Houston at esillcocks@stcl.edu.