A Case for Interning at the Public Defender’s Office #1

I thought this internship was going to be about lying low
and getting by—I was pleasantly mistaken.

My first day was completely disorientating. After a semester of classes not starting until 11 AM, having your first day be at a courthouse at 9 AM was a real wake-up call. After looking like a fool going through security and not knowing what to put in the bins and what I can keep, there was no better sight than my fellow interns looking equally as lost sitting on our bench awaiting our mama duck, Attorney Joy Gaines.

Due to a family emergency I started a week later than others and I was worried that I would never catch up. However, I was lucky to be placed with the best attorney and fellow interns. Everyone immediately welcomed me and had no problem taking the time to explain court procedures, filing, how to obtain discovery, meeting with clients, and where all the office snacks are located.

Truthfully, the whole week was sensory overload. I’ve always said I want to go to law school, but to suddenly be in a court and ready cases and learning so many new skills was overwhelming in the best way possible. Before I knew it, work no longer felt like work and I was staying way past when I was supposed to leave.

Despite this internship being more than I could have even dreamed of, there are some aspects of it that I was not prepared for. Namely, the emotional labor involved with being a public defender. In the private sector, an attorney may have a handful of cases and that will be the majority of their work for months. However, public defenders often receive a handful of cases every week and because I work in the juvenile division, it can take a toil.

While it can be taxing to constantly be reading about juvenile abuse and neglect, there is a silver lining to everything. Specifically, on June 22nd we attended a picnic for all the families who have been reunified after going through the courts. Seeing families back together and listening to people begrudgingly discuss the positive impact of court services, really invested me in the importance of this work.

Looking ahead, I have gained more clients over the weekend and am looking at a very bust week, but I am excited and I know that through coffee and the help of my fellow interns, all things are possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *