Instead of wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts during the summer as usual, Jariel Borges puts on a suit, a shirt and tie, and grabs his briefcase.

“I enjoy knowing when I get up and put on a suit, I’m going to be utilized, I’m going to be useful,” he said.

Borges, a senior legal studies student at UCF, is one of 70 UCF student interns from the Legal Studies Department this summer – an increase from 66 student interns from summer 2016 through spring 2017.

Marc Consalo, the new internship coordinator for the department, is excited to see a growing interest in student internships.

“When I took the program over, I wanted to expand the definition of what a legal studies internship meant,” he said. “In the past, people thought it meant that you were going to a law office, do some filing, maybe do some client interactions.”

Student interns work at public and private law offices, the public defender’s office for Orange and Osceola counties, law firms, the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, and the Hispanic Bar Association of Central Florida, to name a few places.

All the students are not located in Central Florida during the summer either; some students intern in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Collier counties, as well as in Coral Gables and Boca Raton.

As one of 12 interns with the public defender’s office, Borges gets ample opportunities to work on various law projects, meet with and interact with clients, and work side-by-side with other attorneys.

It was intimidating in the beginning, Borges said.

“Knowing I’ve never had any legal background, I knew I had to put my best foot forward,” he said.

Thankfully, he hasn’t had to go on the journey alone; many attorneys and judges have been willing to share their wisdom with interns like Borges.

“Everybody has been very helpful, especially when you are new and don’t understand the routines and the system,” Borges said.

That is the key to success with internships, said Robert Wesley, public defender for Orange and Osceola counties.

“We want to give them an authentic experience in the legal system,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is here to just resume build; they are really here to gain insight and valuable knowledge.”

The public defender’s office has worked with UCF to get interns for several years, but this year has seen a stronger relationship between the school and the office.

“It never was as organized as this,” he said. “Having a university in the community is such a blessing in so many ways. It’s a benefit for us and I hope it’s a benefit for the students.”

Sara Fogarty can attest to the benefits of gaining an internship through UCF.

A senior legal studies student, Fogarty is also spending the summer interning with the public defender’s office, which has helped her make up her mind on her career path in law school.

But she also recognizes the seriousness of what she does every day she passed through the courtroom doors.

“My first day here, and even now, it’s scary,” Fogarty said. “If you mess up in school, you get a few points off, but if you mess up here, you can jeopardize the case.”

Fogarty said that interning this summer has given her plenty of opportunities to talk with judges and attorneys about their career paths and does not mind spending most of her day in the law offices.

“I absolutely love what I do here,” she said. “We’re supposed to do 12 hours a week, but I didn’t listen. I do 20 to 30 hours a week because I want to get as much out of it as possible.”