I've had a new internship since school started this semester, and it has been absolutely amazing. As I mentioned in my earlier post regarding my summer immigration internship, I loved the experience but was disappointed there wasn't more "legal training" involved. The job provided some great communication experience in consulting with clients, and I also learned a lot about the process of immigration, but when I left I realized I really wanted exposure to some more traditional legal practices.
Therefore, this semester, I applied for and landed an internship with a local non-proft called Legal Aid. Legal Aid's mission is to "ensure equal access to justice" for people living near or below the poverty line. Basically, it's a chance for people who can't afford a lawyer to gain access to some sort of legal advice or representation. The office doesn't practice criminal defense or personal injury litigation, but other than that, most legal issues that people bring to us are fair game. It's been fantastic working at a place that allows interns to get exposure to a number of legal fields. I've mostly been working in family law, but have also worked on some landlord-tenant cases, third-party debt collection issues, wills & estates documents, expunction pleadings (which is what a person files to request an arrest be removed from their record if the charges were eventually dismissed), and more.
It has just been a great experience all around. There have been many times I felt like something was just thrown at me that I had no clue how to handle, but being thrown into the middle of something is oftentimes the best way to learn it. I've gained lots of experience drafting various pleadings, petitions, answers, final orders, etc. (Funny story/random fact: in my family law class last semester, one of my assignments was to draft temporary orders in a child custody case. Throughout the whole assignment, I kept thinking "This is so dumb! Why would my professor have us write the judge's orders? If it's the judge's order, the judge will be writing it, not the attorney!" WRONG. As I've only recently learned, in most cases, at least in family law, the attorneys draft court orders, not the judge giving the orders. The orders are either drafted before the hearing and presented to the judge to sign at the end of the hearing once your case is made, or the judge will hear a case and make a decision and one of the attorneys will offer to draft the orders and bring them back up for the judge to sign at a later date. Who knew?)
I've also received a temporary bar card, which allows me to practice law under the supervision of an experienced attorney, so in the last few weeks I've had the chance to examine a witness at trial and to participate in a few court hearings. That was way cool! This job is also fun because the office building is downtown, just a few blocks away from all the different court houses, so we (the interns) get to walk down to the courts almost every day for one thing or another. I don't know why, but I absolutely love that part of this job.
Working in the legal field is interesting, because, for the most part, you only see the "crazy" side of a person's life that has led them to needing help with a legal issue. The issues I have seen in the past three months alone have shown me how truly boring my life is. (Throughout the day I sometimes send my husband texts of "Things you would probably only hear at Legal Aid" - example: "Well, sir, when I type your name into google, the murder comes up as the third hit.") It's also been an eye-opening experience to just how much hurt and messed-up stuff there is out there in the world. The lawyers I've been working under are all fantastic and dedicated to the cause of helping people going through hard financial times through the legal system, and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to learn under them, and even more so that they would take the time to teach me.
As far as actual classes go, they're coming along fine, but I'm starting to feel the dreaded anxiety that comes with finals looming in the near future. The time of completely checking out of life and dedicating every waking moment to studying will soon be upon me again. This semester I've only had to use about half of my allowed absences (for most classes, you're only allowed to miss up to 7 or you don't get credit for the course). This has been another big blessing, considering I had a sinus surgery and a PICC in for 6 weeks (and ugh, glad THAT'S over for now!).
Ok, I think that about sums up my most recent legal thoughts and ramblings. Be back soon!