Public Interest Law Society provides student-funded stipends for summer internships
Elon Law's Public Interest Law Society provided Public Interest Endowment Stipends to Class of 2013 members Melodie Menzer and Kaitlin Shimansky in support of summer 2011 internships with legal counsel for the Guardian ad Litem program in Wake County, N.C. and the Orleans Public Defenders in New Orleans, Louisiana, respectively.
The stipend derives from a fund developed by the Public Interest Law Society (PILS) over a four-year development campaign, including an annual tennis tournament. The following are summaries of summer employment experiences provided by Menzer and Shimansky.
Summer internship with legal counsel for the Guardian ad Litem program in Wake County, NC.
“I began the summer familiarizing myself with juvenile code and the processes by which abused, neglected and dependent children are placed into care of the Department of Social Services (DSS). I completed several projects over the summer including research on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, abuse of unborn children through illegal substances, and social security benefits for juveniles.
“Additionally, I drafted appellate briefs advocating for abused, neglected, and dependent children. Throughout this portion of my work, I read transcripts and records, but justified each case as just that – a case, each with a number and a set of facts. It wasn’t until one record on appeal contained a picture of the three children that I thought of “the case” as a group of children, currently without a home, by no fault of their own.
“I continued my summer experience, drafting and researching. I also attended a Senate Committee Meeting, and I observed trial court hearings in both Wake and Guilford counties. Seeing Judge Fullwood conduct court was an experience I’ll never forget. While his courtroom seemed chaotic, at the end of the day he had completed a lot. He worked with each family and wanted to understand the parents and the overall situation, but looked out for the best interests of the children. I learned that there might not be a perfect answer in many situations, but that several people caring enough to strive for one would matter to the five children in court that day.
“At the close of my experience, I did not want to leave. I could see that although I worked on a small number of cases, especially compared to the number of abused, neglected, or dependent children, those kids were affected. I do not have a magic wand, and there is no ‘quick fix,’ but I am thankful that I had the opportunity to be part of system that reaches so many children.“
Summer internship with the Orleans Public Defenders in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“We provided indigent criminal defendants with legal representation at the District Court level. During my internship I was involved in working up a criminal case from the time an attorney was assigned to a client once they were arrested up through the trial. During the initial phase of the case I did initial client interviews in jail to determine investigation plans and our case theory, contacted clients' family members to provide them with bond information, drafted investigation requests, and went out into the community to interview witnesses and visit crime scenes. I also worked on memos and legal research pertaining to the cases I was assigned and during trial posture I helped formulate cross-examinations and prep witnesses for trial. I also went with my supervising attorneys to court to observe motions, hearings, and trials, and assisted in selecting juries during the voir dire process.
“I think that my internship experience working at the Orleans Public Defenders provided an essential supplement to the legal education gained in the classroom. Though law school prepares us with the legal arguments necessary to serve our clients, it is only through an internship process that we gain the practical skills required to be the most effective counsel possible. Sitting in a classroom cannot prepare you for the heartbreaking conversations where you must explain to a client that they are facing twenty years to life for a drug charge, or for the daily road blocks put up by D.A.s, judges, and the police department. Casebooks cannot prepare students for the enormous disparities and injustice that plague our criminal justice system. I believe that indigent defense is the true battlefield for fighting injustice in our criminal justice system and I was honored to serve the New Orleans community this summer with the Orleans Public Defenders.”