FARMINGTON — Students at the University of Maine at Farmington experience the real work of potential future professions while giving back to local employers through internships.

Courtney Alofs of Scarborough, a senior who graduated last week, has worked as an intern for Farmington Attorney Paul Mills for two years, she said.  

Alofs has been hired by District Attorney Andrew Robinson and began work in the Auburn office this week.

Mana Abdi, a UMF junior from Lewiston, has been an intern this semester in the Farmington District Attorney’s office. She will continue to work as an intern in Robinson’s office this summer, she said.

“I’m a firm believer that anyone contemplating law school or any future profession should have the opportunity to see what it is really like,” Robinson said.

For one hour of trial in court, there’s eight hours of prep time, he said. It is a lot of reading.

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For the intern’s benefit, he expects them to have courtroom exposure, including court trials, an opportunity to see the more glamorous, more interesting part of the work, he said.

The trade-off is the interns provide the DA’s office with help on the clerical side of the work, he said.

Alofs’ work with attorney Mills involved more property law. She learned to research property lines and proofread wills, she said. 

She enjoyed the work but it helped her realize that she would like to pursue the criminal part of law.

“But not as a lawyer,” she said. “I would rather be the person behind the scenes.”

She also feels the work will provide an opportunity to do more that will affect people’s lives, she said.

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Her work as a trial assistant in the District Attorney’s office will include paper work and checking materials before going to court. She expects to go to trials and take notes but she will also help victims connect with opportunities and services such as Safe Voices, she said.

Abdi, who is studying political science and international global studies, is on a pre-law path.

She feels she can better serve the community as a lawyer and thinks she would like to become an immigration lawyer for juveniles.

“As a second generation immigrant, I know how easily young, second generation immigrants can fall through the cracks,” she said. “Why law? At a young age, I was bothered by bullies. Injustice bothers me.”

Abdi was born in Kenya and immigrated here when she was 11. She lived in Kansas for two years before the family moved to Lewiston, she said.

Abdi will spend the summer pouring over some dated cases that have not been closed yet and do some research along with some clerical work, Robinson said. 

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There is a learning period for an intern and the office invests time to help them before they can produce. But, internships are a win-win and successful in a give-and-take way. They get exposure to the profession and the intern’s clerical duties allow trial assistants to focus on other responsibilities, Robinson said.

Franklin Savings Bank provides scholarships that allow the students to receive a stipend for their work, he said.

College credits are also received, Alofs said.

Through the internship, Alofs learned that people want to be listened to and the need to pay attention to detail. Just a word or two can make a big difference in a legal document, she said.

For Abdi, the internship showed her that people should not be afraid of new opportunities.

“If they are afraid it won’t work out — so what? It is still an experience,” she said. “Do it. It might surprise you.”

The internships are offered through the UMF Partnership for Civic Advancement.

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University of Maine at Farmington interns Courtney Alofs, left, and Mana Abdi stand in front of the Franklin County Courthouse in Farmington.


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