I am a few weeks deep into my internship at the State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Florida. Because this is my first post, I will try to cover all the highlights from the beginning of the internship to now. I will be working here until August 17.
After working many summers in food service, I figured that now might be a good time to start transitioning into the professional world, especially a field in which I might be working for my long-term career–law. Under the broad genus law, I am mostly interested in public law, which led me to become interested in and apply for this particular internship.
I am working in downtown Tampa, specifically at the State Attorney’s Office 13th Judicial Circuit, under State Attorney Andrew Warren. Before starting my internship, the office told me that I would be placed in Sex Offenses Division (SOD), provided that I had the stomach for it. That particular comment about the stomach brought to mind all sorts of crazy ideas of what this internship would entail, although none of these really hit the nail on the head. I did, however, outline some goals and things I wished to learn during the course of the internship. Perhaps the most important thing I wished to learn, although this isn’t exactly a goal, is whether law is right for me. This internship would give me an opportunity to dip my foot in the water, and see exactly a career in law looks like, and to see how much that aligns with my interests. I am, at this point, very unsure of what my future career path will look like, so I figured the internship might be valuable in this capacity. Being that I have no formal experience in anything legal, I set the somewhat vague goal of doing everything to the best of my capacities within the office, and learning everything about the office that I possibly could in three months. By this, I meant doing assigned tasks thoroughly and efficiently, and going beyond what is asked for. Some other, less big-picture goals were to make valuable connections with the people with whom I work, to gain professional communication skills, and to learn to take and work with criticism to make my work stronger.
Now that I am settled, I have a pretty good idea of what my department does, and what my job is. The SOD department has seven attorneys, who represent the State of Florida in all sexual offenses. My internship allows me to watch these cases in court almost weekly. This has probably been the most interesting part of my time here. Before the internship, I expected our trials to be something like the trials on the TV show “Law and Order: SVU”. And there are certainly some similarities. The cases that my departments handles, as one might expect, are pretty gruesome, and some of the testimony from victims is difficult to watch. The role of the state, and our attorneys specifically, in these trials is to try to get a guilty verdict from the jury. To accomplish this, the state (and the defense attorney) will deliver opening statements, call a range of witnesses, victims, and other involved parties to the stand, present evidence, and then deliver closing statements. I’ve found that the opening and closing statements are the most interesting, and perhaps the most important part of the trial. Whereas everything else presented is raw data, this is the attorneys making a case for why the raw data supports his or her thesis, i.e., whether the defendant is guilty or not. However, there are many parts of trials that are not interesting, contra “Law and Order”. For most cases, there are dozens of people called to the stand, sometimes in excess of 50 people. And most of these people provide things that are seemingly superfluous to the case completely (at least they seem this way to someone watching, in my opinion)–things like the weather the day of the crime, elaborate explanations of scientific equipment, demonstrations of cameras, etc. There is also a lot of procedural parts to a trial omitted from “Law and Order”, for obvious reasons.
My job description, in very general terms, is to help out the attorneys and secretaries with whatever they ask, but, as I’ve now been here for a few weeks, there are some jobs that I consistently do. My day usually begins with me putting together the docket, which is essentially a calendar or list of trials, for all the attorneys. During the rest of the day, I’ll often work with attorneys in collecting evidence for trials. This often includes listening to calls from defendants while they are in jail awaiting trial, and seeing if they said anything incriminating. I also listen to “controlled calls,” which are calls to a defendant that a police officer records, unbeknownst to the defendant. This, often times, will be a victim calling the defendant and talking about the incident, and seeing if any information that might be important in a trial can be taken from the defendant. I also often will look at all of the statements from victims, and put together summaries for attorneys before they present their cases. If ever I see an interesting case on the docket, I’ll make sure to walk across the street from my office to the courthouse to watch it, and often the attorneys will ask me to take notes for them during the trial. So far, I have learned a lot, and really enjoyed myself and the people with whom I work!
I look forward to posting again soon!