Salamah has spent the summer as a public policy intern at Consumer Reports.
As a long-time consumer advocate, he said that the experience has helped him hone his research skills and deepened his understanding of the field. We spoke with him about his summer internship and the importance of gaining skills outside of school.
What are you doing this summer at Consumer Reports?
A: Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product testing organization and a lot of people know them for Consumer Report’s Magazine. Consumer’s Union, which is where I’m at, is the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. Most of our work is centered on health care and financial reform, and food and product safety. We want to make a fair and just marketplace by holding people accountable for their products.
As a public policy intern I get to work with all of the different experts in the field. Recently, I worked on a healthcare project where I went through health insurance rate filings. Each health insurance company has to submit justifications for the rates that they charge people on their premiums. I went through all 50 states and saw what the insurance companies were listing and whether they were following the laws on what they were supposed to make available to the public.
What were some skills that you developed this summer?
A: It’s taught me a lot of research skills, which is what I hoped to gain from this internship. The people at our office are lawyers, people with PhDs, and grassroots organizers. They all come from different backgrounds but they’re able to communicate effectively. Diving into the research and figuring out how much it takes to push a policy maker one way or the other really helps me gain an appreciation for that work.
Has this experience helped you figure out what you’d like to do after graduation?
A: Yes! Going into this internship I knew that I wanted to be in advocacy and work for the public good. This has really helped me focus on the consumer side of things. Being able to advocate on behalf of consumers to policy makers and judges is something that I’d like to do.
A lot of the issues that I’m working on today [at Consumer Reports] are relatively unknown. For instance, a lot of people aren’t aware of the GMOs that go into food products or how health insurance companies take advantage of those who don’t know that their doctors are out of their network. They’re not aware of companies with predatory lending practices that take advantage of people who might not speak English, aren’t as educated, or who live in areas where they don’t have access to as many resources. These things are all very important to any consumer. It’s a duty to make sure that people have these basic resources and knowledge.
Why did you decide to go to law school?
A: I did a lot of advocacy work before law school: fundraising on behalf of refugees and helping low-income non-English speakers with their bills for the Southern California Gas Company. The next step to gaining advocacy skills was law school. There’s a lot that you can do with a JD when your goal is to represent people. Law school made a lot of sense for getting where I want to be as an advocate.
I grew up in a household where we were taught English and Arabic. I also lived in Palestine for a couple of years. Helping people who grew up like I did or with fewer resources has always been part of my family upbringing. We’re very privileged to be in the US and going to good schools. I want to be able to give back.
What career advice would you give to someone just starting out?
A: Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to try new things and ask a lot of questions from alumni and professors who have been out in the field longer than you have.
Keep perspective. Law school, especially if you’re a 1L, might seem like it’s the only thing that you’re doing. But there are a lot of other ways that you can help. You came to law school for a reason and you can start doing that outside of school now. Take advantage of opportunities to help or gain skills outside the classroom.