This summer, I am working as a legal intern and certified student attorney at the Legal Rights Center (LRC), a community based non-profit law firm that represents low-income people free of charge. It is difficult to categorize the LRC. When I describe the LRC to family and friends, I tell them to picture a small, community-driven Public Defender’s Office with a more manageable caseload. It is an organization that provides a voice to the disadvantaged.
Based on my past experiences and interests, I was assigned to work with a staff attorney who largely represents juveniles. I began my internship by researching restorative justice initiatives and practices that can be used to aid youth with mental health issues in the juveniles justice system. Next, I began sitting in on client interviews, observing court dates, and conducting legal research. I discovered that I enjoy interacting with clients – particularly, helping everyday folks understand the legal process, the charges filed against them, and their options moving forward. Most of all, I enjoy getting to know the person behind the alleged charge of criminal conduct. I have learned at the LRC that a good attorney must listen to the client, understand them as a person, and show who they are to the court. Many, many people come to court each day. The LRC hopes to show that our clients are more than just a number.
I am particularly grateful for the opportunity I have been given at the LRC because it is the ideal forum for me to utilize the skills I learned during my first year of law school. I have written multiple motions to suppress evidence, conducted client interviews, negotiated with prosecutors, and have done plea deals in court. Currently, I am preparing for a trial in juvenile court that I will perform, with the assistance of a supervising attorney. And at the end of August, I will cross-examine two witnesses in another trial in juvenile court.
The LRC has provided me with the opportunity to use skills acquired in law school, work with supportive attorneys, and learn from an activist and community-centered staff. I feel very blessed to be able to help and advocate on behalf of those in need.
The views expressed in this article represent those of the author and not necessarily those of the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center. As a forum for dialogue and education, and an acknowledgment of the contentious nature of human rights issues, some views expressed on this blog may not necessarily be those of the Human Rights Center as an institution.