No strings: Law student enjoys summer internship at puppet festival


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Always passionate about the theater, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law student Samantha Buck hopes to combine a legal career with theater company management.

This past summer, the 3L student enjoyed a rather unusual internship at the 1st International Puppet Fringe Festival, produced by the Society of Educational Arts, Inc. (Teatro SEA) in New York City, where emerging and established puppeteers and puppet troupes showcased their artistry through performances, exhibits and symposia.

“Although I wasn’t doing any actual legal or law related duties, the skills I learned during my first two years of law school were definitely put to good use—including organization, efficiency, and professionalism,” Buck says.

Her primary duty was as a liaison between the theater and nine international and national companies, including communicating with companies and resolving questions, concerns and issues.

“I learned how to communicate with and manage many different personalities and expectations,” she says. 

Although not a legal internship, Buck notes the experience helped further develop skills needed to work in the legal field—including organization, problem-solving, thinking outside of the box, and critical thinking, as well as general research and writing. One particularly important skill was diplomacy and a neutral, but empathetic stance.

“I believe these skills transfer really well into the legal field because a lawyer may not always be able to tell clients what they want to hear, and yet they have to do it in an empathetic, but diplomatic way,” she says.

Buck also secured restaurant sponsorships for free/discounted meals for performers, a task that entailed grassroots marketing and “selling” the theater to these businesses. 
“Being able to bring on new businesses to support this first-of-its-kind festival was an invaluable learning experience because I was able to see how to cold call businesses and prepare presentations and documents,” she says. 

The downriver resident, who is the Law Review’s Symposium director, teaching assistant for Introduction to Legal Research, Research Assistant, Moot Court participant, and who previously interned for the City of Detroit’s legal department, particularly values the mediation training she previously received from Professor Erin Archerd.

“This was so helpful because I’d been taught how to encourage communication and what types of questions to ask, as well as the importance of reading body language,” she says.

Buck has written a directed study research paper, under the supervision of Detroit Mercy Law Library Director and Associate Professor Patrick Meyer, on incorporating theater into a law school curriculum, and she also curated the October Detroit Mercy Law Library’s circulation desk display to spotlight theater and the law. 

“Even though it might appear law and theater are polar opposites, there are a lot of similarities between the two, and a leap from one to the other doesn’t seem so farfetched,” she says. “In fact, New York City now recognizes a theatrical improve class as a CLE, and many litigators are taking acting classes to help them in the courtroom. 

“I was able to meet with some lawyers and a theater professional that had graduated law school and learned some lawyers are making the leap from attorney to theater, or producing theater as a sideline, because the skills are so transferable.”

Buck has found her legal education an asset in the theater field because of the skills and new ways of thinking it has fostered. 

“Similarly, if I were to work as a lawyer, the skills learned from this theatrical internship would prove to be very helpful as well,” she says.

“I’m really glad I chose to work in theater over taking on a traditional legal internship,” she adds. “It was a great learning experience and was a way for me to incorporate some of the more practical skills I’ve learned in law school in a professional setting.”