Internship of the Month: Federal Public Defenders Office

Chris Minott

Intern: Chris Minott
Class Year: 2012
Major: Economics
Employer: Federal Public Defenders Office
Position: Investigator Assistant
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How would you describe the various projects you did in for your organization someone who is unfamiliar with your field?

As an Investigative Assistant at the Federal Public Defender’s Office, my role was to help investigate the clients that the Federal Public Defenders represent. Investigating our clients required requesting information related to medical and criminal histories from various hospitals, substance abuse centers, courts, and summarizing client information and key findings. This information was used to decide what the best way to serve our clients might be. I also assisted clients during their supervised release period, a post-incarceration period when clients must adhere to conditions, including a permanent residence, drug counseling (if the crime was drug related), and informing a parole officer on any changes in location. I would help research potential residences where clients could stay, substance abuse centers where clients could do their counseling, and exact requirements for what a client had to report to a parole officer. Some of the work I did was more mundane and included data entry, filing, and copying. To balance out these activities, I was allowed to observe various criminal proceedings in the federal courthouse and sit in on client interviews.

What did you like best about this internship? What was most challenging?

What I liked best was a conference the Federal Public Defenders hosted to discuss legal defense strategies for child pornography and human trafficking cases. Through this one conference I was able to learn a lot about criminal law and the thinking behind many of the motions and appeals I had been reading throughout my time at the office.

The most challenging part of working for the Federal Public Defenders was learning about the hardships some of our clients have suffered. All of our clients are indigent, so they face some degree of financial hardship, but beyond financial hardship, some of our clients have come from abusive households and other suffer crippling addictions. To see that some of our clients have suffered so much and continue to face great hardship was tough to handle.

How did you gain credit for this internship?

I got credit for my internship through a service-learning course (EDSS 239). The course met periodically throughout the semester and required essays designed to integrate internships with supplemental readings. Credit is based on how many hours you work and how many essays you are contract to write.

What impact did this internship have on your career direction?

My internship had a large impact on my career direction. Before my time with the Federal Public Defender’s Office I was struggling with whether or not I wanted to go to law school. After completing my internship, I know I want to go to law school. Seeing how the criminal justice system works and seeing how I could impact the world I live in with a legal education has made me realize that a career in law is what I am interested in pursuing.

What advice do you have for students searching for internships?

Look for an internship where you will be doing things that push you out of your comfort zone. I didn’t necessarily want to be in a position where I had to interact with clients and their family members (both of whom who were going through a very hard time) but now that I have, I am grateful for the experience and can appreciate how ‘eye opening’ is was.

Why should students do an internship?

Internships are a great way to see if a career path you are interested in is actually what you want to do. Also, if a student’s internship turns out to be in the field where that student wants to pursue a career, an internship also offers valuable contacts. Finally, internships offer a nice transition from school to the working world where one can learn how to act in an office setting and get used to the 9-5 grind.

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