MORGANTOWN – Two third-year students at the West Virginia University College of Law spent last summer working at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Pittsburgh getting a taste of real-world experiences that should help them in their careers.
The West Virginia University College of Law offers a Federal Agency and Judicial Externship course that aims to give students the ability to use their legal training in professional offices.
Jamie Crestfield and Christian Wilson, whose focus at the law school is labor and employment law, both benefited from the externship program.
Jamie Crestfield told The West Virginia Record she enjoyed working with the NLRB and felt that taking affidavits from witnesses and doing research helped her understand how a big labor case is handled.
“Working for the NLRB in Pittsburgh was a wonderful experience. The working environment was extremely supportive and collaborative and I could not imagine a more genuine group of individuals. It was also a challenging working environment but I learned something new and exciting every day I was there,” she said.
Christian Wilson told The West Virginia Record he also felt the NLRB experience was rewarding.
“I felt that the office greatly exceeded my expectations in terms of the atmosphere, culture and location. Though there was always work to be done, the environment was exceptionally lighthearted and tension free due to the friendliness, good humor and encouraging attitudes of the people who work there. It did not take long to realize the employees of Region 6 genuinely care about making a difference in people’s lives, which I found quite inspiring,” he said.
Crestfield feels that taking affidavits is a valuable skill, explaining, “In taking affidavits I learned how to conduct myself with attorneys and clients. I learned how to properly phrase questions to get the answers that I needed, rather than going down a rabbit hole. I also learned how to remain neutral as a third-party investigator. I think that all of these skills will help me in my future legal career.”
Wilson echoed her sentiments.
“Much of my time was spent reviewing affidavits and researching the legal issues surrounding the statements given in the affidavits. Most of my affidavits were taken over the phone, but most affidavits are taken at the NLRB office in Pittsburgh. I did go on one destination interview in Morgantown, which was convenient for me because I live here, but most of the time clients are willing to make the trip into Pittsburgh,” he said.
One affidavit particularly stood out for Crestfield.
“The last affidavit I took was the most memorable of all because not only did it take about two or three days, but the gentleman giving testimony was an absolute pleasure. He was also quite funny. I remember that he liked to keep the mood light and energetic while staying on topic of course,” she explained.
Wilson’s learning experience with clients was also valuable, he noted.
“Learning how to interview and communicate with clients was probably the greatest learning point of the summer. Law classes aren’t always designed to prepare students to interact with clients, so it was beneficial to get that kind of hands-on experience. It was especially beneficial in the NLRB context because clients with their livelihoods on the line can get emotional, thereby providing a platform for gaining experience interacting with laypersons in intense situations,” he said.
Both students are looking ahead to the completion of their law school studies next spring.
“Ideally when I graduate, I'd like to work in the West Virginia, Pennsylvania, or D.C. areas in labor and employment, international law, privacy or cybersecurity, and/or immigration law,” Crestfield said.
Wilson also may relocate after graduation.
“At this point, opportunity is more important than location," he said. "I’m willing to work wherever I can find a job that will give me the experience to achieve my career goals.”