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Published: February 22, 2024

Law Internship Bolsters Self-Confidence for UT Student

Everything about Alex Gialanella ’26 screams confidence. 

A firm handshake. A starched shirt. An internship usually reserved for upperclassmen or graduates, but that he snagged as a sophomore.

Law Internship Bolsters Self-Confidence for UT Student Alex Gialanella ’26 is finding confidence and connections in his law internship at the Florida Justice Center. Photo by Lena Malpeli ‘25

“I figured, why not start now?” Gialanella said. So when he saw the pre-law internship advertised on MyUTampa, the political science major went for it.

Gialanella is now one of a dozen Florida Justice Center interns. He processes applications for people requesting to seal or expunge their criminal records. The work aligns well with his minor in law, justice and advocacy.

It also tests his confidence every day.

Gialanella reviews the application intake forms, cold-calls courthouses and law enforcement stations for missing legal information about the client and relays if each applicant is accepted or rejected by the Florida Justice Law Center. The search for information, Gialanella says, sometimes traces back to the client’s history at 16 years old.

Slowly, the doubt started to trickle in. 

In an internship that helped people, Gialanella realized how many people he couldn’t give help to. Approving applicants is a lot more enjoyable for Gialanella, but those kinds of applications can be few and far in between.

“The amount of people that don't qualify took me by surprise,” Gialanella said. “There are so many reasons why you couldn't get something taken off (a person's record), but there's very few (reasons) how you can get it taken off. It shocked me that we've had to deny so many people.”

Sometimes, the rejections were for small reasons that could be easily fixed. Maybe a client left their car at the beach too long and forgot to pay the parking fine. After that was paid, they could reapply.

Other times, the reasons required more than a quick fix. To be eligible, applicants had to have no open criminal cases. They couldn’t be on probation. They also couldn’t reapply if they had a case sealed or expunged in the past.

Gialanella had the confidence to take rejection, but he had to learn the confidence to hand rejection out.

“It's definitely hard. You have to put the emotional side aside and just focus on the facts of everything,” Gialanella said. 

Gialanella learned to adjust. He works on Tuesdays and Thursdays to keep balance with his class-loaded schedule on Mondays and Wednesdays. Friday, he keeps open as a way to unwind.

Even in an emotionally demanding internship, Gialanella is thinking of reapplying. He wants to help the new batch of interns, he says, or find another law firm through UT to apply to over the summer. 

Story by Lena Malpeli '25


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