Step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself – that’s the message Emily LaGreca has for Widener Law Commonwealth students who are considering an externship opportunity.
During the summer of 2022, LaGreca was a legal extern for ten weeks with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps in Washington, D.C., working with the Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC).
This particular office was responsible for advising a three-star Navy admiral on any legal issues regarding physical Navy bases around the world. That meant LaGreca earned significant experience researching several legal subject matters, including ethical aspects of the most recent “Top Gun” movie, child abuse, sexual harassment, the COVID vaccination, and the use of force training. During her externship, she was also given a long-term project to look into what legal action the military could take regarding unmanned aircraft systems (such as drones) flying over and landing on military bases.
But that’s not all – LaGreca also had the opportunity to observe other offices within the U.S. Navy JAG Corps, including the Regional Legal Services Office, where her work was divided into two of the four main JAG practice areas: trial and legal assistance. This offered her the opportunity to gain additional experience by examining cases being brought to court martial and reviewing wills.
LaGreca also immersed herself into the ‘military life’ during her externship, participating in physical training three to four mornings a week, attending professional development sessions, and becoming familiar with military titles, ranks, insignia and acronyms.
She said her externship experience allowed her to grow on a personal as well as a professional level.
“Personally, I quickly felt a sense of discomfort living in a completely new area. Through this, I learned how to better step out of my comfort zone, make friends in a city where I knew no one, explore places I have never been to before, and challenge myself by trying new things. Professionally, I strengthened my communication skills by not being afraid to speak up and ask questions when they arose. I learned how much I am able to carry without being overwhelmed while maintaining the best version of myself. Further, I observed how much a positive attitude – both inside the workplace and outside of the workplace – really makes a difference in the productivity of the office.”
LaGreca is grateful for having this opportunity with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps. “While I do not come from a military background, or family, I was unsure of what this placement would be like because it was as if I was immersing myself in a whole new lifestyle for the ten-week period. However, I was welcomed with open arms and those I worked with in my office were supportive, encouraging, and respectful. The legal work was interesting yet challenging. There was a great sense of camaraderie in the office which in turn made it a positive work environment.”
For students who may be on the fence regarding an externship, she strongly recommends applying, especially if it’s in a particular field you want to learn more about.
“An externship is the perfect opportunity to really immerse yourself fully in the work and gain a deeper understanding if that specific area of law is something you are truly passion about. I would recommend applying for any opportunity you are able to, even if it seems like it would be a long shot. I would also suggest taking advantage of networking (during your externship). Meet with as many people as you can and do not be afraid to ask questions about the kind of work they do!”