Imagine an office of attorneys in suits and ties, who relax in their socks the moment clients exit the door. Envision a large corporation, where you are not defined by your ‘title’ or degree but rather by the talents and skills you can contribute. To my surprise, this is a normal occurrence in Israel, and an aspect of Israeli work culture and society as a whole that I admire greatly.
As a prospective attorney, I dream of working in a friendly, inclusive, dynamic, and flexible law office. To many, this seems like an oxymoron, a mere impossibility in the challenging arena of law. But last summer, my dream became a reality, actualizing as an intern at Cohen, Decker, Pex, and Brosh Law Firm (CDPB) in Jerusalem, Israel. From the moment I walked in as an entry-level intern, I was warmly welcomed by a team of attorneys and paralegals. As a college student from the United States anticipating interning at a big-time firm, I expected grunt work, taking coffee orders, and if I was lucky– getting to brush arms with an attorney. To my utmost surprise, not only was I not assigned grunt work, but I was asked what MY interests were, what I wanted to gain from my internship, and subsequently provided assignments to further my goals. For instance, one ‘assignment’ was visiting the Israeli Supreme Court and publishing an article about the trip – for the mere goal of personal development and education! Check out my Times of Israel Blog to read about adventures in the Israeli Supreme Court!
When I reached out to my supervisor Attorney Joshua Pex, he shared, “Our interns bring more to our office than legal help; we dually aim to encourage their academic and career-oriented growth — and provide our forthcoming attorneys with insight into the legal field, and exposure to the various legal fields in which we practice.”
Although I was ‘just an intern,’ I was accepted as a member of the team. I distinctly recall a moment when I overheard attorneys saying they didn’t have time to pick up lunch before their meeting. Since I was about to step out for lunch, I offered to pick up their lunches. But one attorney sharply replied, “We do not ask our interns to get lunch! YOU are more than that.” This moment stuck with me, showing me my worth and highlighting the people-oriented structure of Israeli society. Although hierarchy in the Israeli corporate structure exists, it boasts a more participative work style. Israeli culture profoundly values open communication, brainstorming, and exchanging ideas. Thus, encouraging input from all members of an organization, regardless of rank. Likewise, relationship building and inclusivity of co-workers are important values in a business setting. The cohesion extends beyond the office, or the respect I was provided with, simply for my ability to write in my native tongue. The office was always sharing about their families, cooking lunch together, and inviting each other out for drinks after work; myself included.
CDPB strives to “take an active role in changing our world for the better” and provides “each new case the attention it deserves.” A large part of my internship involved working directly with attorneys in documenting client success stories. CDPB specializes in immigration and visas, and the stories centered around their tireless work of uniting families, both in Israel and abroad. The profound devotion to, and comprehensive knowledge of complex legal cases was evident in every attorney I worked with. They could converse about their clients and their distinct legal journeys indefinitely; every case, every individual, and every family mattered. The wide variety of legal backgrounds at CDPB – everywhere from human rights, family, inheritance, and property law – allows for an exhaustive review of legal avenues crucial to advocating for their client. Further, CDPB aspires to reach citizens across continents and language barriers; offering services in English, Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, German, Dutch, French, and Spanish!
CDPB’s mission extends beyond its clients and onto the global society. They disseminate free, legal advice on their extensive website database and YouTube channel– in multiple languages. Their easy-to-understand content aims to clarify legal enterprises for those working without an attorney and provide a clearer grasp of legal steps and procedures for anyone interested.
My fellow intern Mordecai Neuman, reminisced upon his internship at CDPB in light of his experiences as a first-year law student at Cornell: “Although the Israeli law firm culture is more casual than the law firm culture in America, the environment is extremely reasonable and the work is as high quality as I’ve seen in the American legal field.”
There is nothing more “Israeli” than this office; horizontal hierarchy, client-based, and simultaneously intense and casual– oh, and did I mention female-dominated? From female attorneys, paralegals, and administrative assistants, this office has it all!
Whether you are a college student, newly graduated, or interested in traveling and finding your path in the world, I highly recommend exploring all the opportunities Israel has to offer! The choices are endless; ranging from medicine, legal, technology, start-up companies, and more! If you want to learn more about Israeli corporate culture, check out this article written by a college student who interned at a Tel Aviv startup company! Both of our internships were organized by Onward Israel, a program aimed at North American Jewish College students – check out this article to learn more! Onward is just one of a myriad of options; read here to learn about the Israeli Tech Program that brought students from 30 countries, including Saudi Arabia and Sudan, to explore the high-tech ecosystem of Israel. Further, Israeli universities, such as Hebrew University, offer comprehensive programs, integrating academic degrees, workshops, and internships, geared toward international students. Options are endless; Hebrew U even has a program in wine-making. Go explore, and get a taste of the Israeli workforce for yourself!
Amanda Cetina is a junior at Binghamton University dual-majoring in Politics, Philosophy, and Law (PPL), and Hebrew.