Extern Appreciates Phoenix Mentor
The BYU externship program, similar to an internship program, is designed to provide a real-life "capstone" experience for students following their first year of law study. Externs work for free with mentoring lawyers who provide them with hands-on legal experience.
This last summer I contacted Debbie Hendrickson, a family lawyer in AZ who I met several times at BYU events, to see if she knew any family lawyers in the Phoenix area who would take an extern. I had heard great things about Debbie, and as I sent off the email I secretly hoped she would say, “Natalie, you should come be my extern!” As hoped, Debbie quickly responded saying she would love to have me shadow her in her office as her extern.
I showed up for the externship the first day expecting to learn all I could about family law. While I learned a great deal about the practice of law, I also learned about how to stay balanced as an attorney, show understanding and compassion to clients, and use my legal degree to serve others.
Debbie was a phenomenal example of how to stay balanced in the legal world. She has quite the schedule! She practices law, is on the board of SRP, one of the biggest public utility companies in the US, is a board member of the WIL, a wife and a mother. It was inspiring to see how she balanced all the areas of her life by setting realistic timelines and communicating well with her clients, board members, and her family.
I was impressed when she took the time to explain a complicated legal issue to a client. She would explain legal terms and theories to her clients without talking down to them or sugarcoating the situation. In response, many of her clients were grateful and trusted her with their problems because they felt she cared and would work hard for their benefit.
Her example of service, however, was the one that touched me the most, probably because she served me by teaching me on a daily basis. She spent time showing me how to research different areas of family law so that I could continue learning even when she wasn’t available, and after the externship ended. The legal world can be quite intimidating, and having someone who I felt comfortable going to with questions was invaluable.
The BYU externship is a valuable learning tool and I am grateful for that program. Debbie was not only an amazing mentor, but a great friend. I would definitely recommend the externship experience to other Women in the Law attorneys and law students. There is so much students can learn from experienced WIL attorneys, not only in the areas of legal practice, but also how to balance the demands of careers, studies, families, and faith. – Natalie Thorsen, 2L at BYU law school. Photo: Extern Natalie and mentoring attorney Deborah Hendrickson.