Becoming a Leader
Interning at the Public Defender’s Office has taught me a lot about leadership and taking agency on projects as a young person. Simply put, the public defender’s office, with their hundreds of clients and low staff number, rely on the work ethic of their interns to keep up with the demands of their job. Student lawyers, or those that are current law students, are put on the stand the first day of their internship experience. As an undergraduate with the “student investigator” title, I was asked to speak with clients and notify them of their current legal situation from day one. Interning at the public defender in general involves a heavy amount of learning on the job, a process that traditionally has made me very uncomfortable.
The internship requires all of its interns to be leaders, regardless of their level of experience, how outgoing they are, or how confident they are in the work. The experience thus far has shown that leadership requires knowledge of when it is appropriate and necessary to ask questions and when it is more pivotal to use ingenuity and creativity to solve a problem. Interns learn and lead by example – we follow the pace and diligence of our attorney mentors while simultaneously signaling to other interns that a face paced work environment is important to maintain. I have learned the importance of facing your fears and rising to the occasion. Part of being a leader is having a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them – if you aren’t trying new things, you aren’t demonstrating the ability to work outside your comfort zone.
As new interns continue to arrive at the Public Defender’s Office, I offer any help and guidance that I can while simultaneously learning from my peers. Interns are expected to step up to the plate – I am constantly putting myself in uncomfortable or unfamiliar settings to expand both my horizon and my role at the public defender’s office. I am excited to see how I can further develop my leadership and critical thinking abilities as I continue this internship.