Internship Partner Spotlight: American Bar Association

Are you interested in a career in law or want to work within the legal system? ABPA Institute has a partnership with the American Bar Association to place students into internships.

Founded in 1878, the American Bar Association (ABA) is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, whose nearly 400,000 members include prosecutors, public defenders, private defense counsel, attorneys in law firms, corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies, judges, legislators, law professors, law students, and non-lawyer associates. The ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.

The ABA’s most important stated activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation of model ethical codes related to the legal profession. The organization’s national headquarters are located in Chicago, Illinois and it maintains a branch office in Washington, D.C.

Every August, the ABA holds an annual meeting in different cities that consists of speeches, classes, gatherings, and the ABA EXPO.

The ABA Journal covers the trends, people and finances of the legal profession.

Internships at ABA

The ABA’s Law Student Division maintains a list of internships, fellowships and clerkships available from the American Bar Association, including on-site opportunities and opportunities sponsored by the organization. Legal Career Central offers a job board with internship, fellowship, clerkship and job postings. Law students will also find and tools for entry level legal job seekers.

ABA has the atmosphere of a small organization while having the influence of a large organization.

Sonali Dhawan at the ABA

Sonali Dhawan
Sonali Dhawan

Sonali Dhawan is a Program Associate with the ABA Center for Human Rights in the Justice Defenders Program, where she supports the administrative, programmatic, and research needs of the Justice Defenders Program. Sonali graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Arabic & Islamic Studies and Government and is a recipient of the Harvard University-coordinated Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) fellowship in Amman, Jordan.

How did you find out about the American Bar Association?

I have always wanted to become a lawyer so I knew that the American Bar Association (ABA) existed, but I never knew about the ABA Center for Human Rights. I found out about the Center through a colleague at the International Refugee Assistance Project where I had been volunteering in Amman, Jordan. After completing my fellowship abroad, I returned to the States and was lucky enough to receive an offer as a program associate at the Center. 

What is an average day like for a Program Associate with the ABA Center for Human Rights?

It really does depend on the day. The position is what you make of it and taking initiative to demonstrate your interest and expertise is essential to working well with your supervisor and contributing to the larger work of the Center. Because I support three regions at the Center, most of my time is spent on administrative and logistical assistance. At the same time, however, I have expressed great interest in research and writing on issues pertaining to human rights in the Arab World and South Asia. I am currently working on a blog on Iraq’s reparation bill for victims of conflict-related sexual violence.

Is there anything you find interesting about ABA that maybe an outsider or someone who isn’t familiar should know? Or an interesting experience you’ve had where you gained an acute insight or awareness about the industry/sector?

When you are newly entering the field of human rights, networking is much more important than you think. Your application will likely be among hundreds, but don’t be discouraged and don’t give up! A reference from the right person can make the ultimate difference in your job search. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people that have the job that you want on LinkedIn to demonstrate your interest in the organization and/or position. This is essential in increasing your name recognition and might encourage the hiring team to take a closer look at your application.

A reference from the right person can make the ultimate difference in your job search.

Do you have any advice you could give if someone were to get a position at ABA or a similar organization?

Human rights is a very competitive but worthwhile field. I would recommend pursuing proficiency in a foreign language, such as Spanish, French, Arabic, Mandarin, or Russian. The human rights field also needs more than just lawyers and activists—it needs people with backgrounds in digital and technology security, business and labor, statistics, and psychology. There is more than one way to get there, but a unique background can get you there faster.

Are you interested in working for the American Bar Association as an intern? Apply for our internship placement program now or email us at

For more reading:

American Bar Association videos on C-SPAN

The American Bar Association’s Greatest Hits

The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change

Catapult Your Career: Networking and Relationship Building Strategies for Junior Associates and Law

Virus Fallout Ups Pressure on American Bar Association Reboot

Free digital cookbook from the American Bar Association features recipes from judges and lawyers.

ABA Brief to Supreme Court of the United States

ABA Blueprint Resource Center

ABA Connect

The ABA Podcast Hub

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