Exploring Public Interest Internships: Part 2

Today is Part 2 of our public interest Q&A series.  Laura Dulic reflects below on her internship with the Lawrence County Public Defender Agency in Bedford, IN.

Q: What is your favorite part of the internship?

A: My favorite part of the internship is definitely the clients. I like being able to help people, and when I meet them and get to know them, I know exactly who I’m fighting for when I’m writing a motion or brief, or arguing in court.

Q: What kinds of experiences has your job entailed?

A: My job is mostly client visits and researching legal issues for motion work.

Q: Would you say that your office is team-oriented, or do attorneys work alone?

A: It is a small office, so I’m mostly on my own. I’ve got my own clients and projects so I manage my schedule how I need to.

Q: Have your perceptions about working for a public defender changed at all from when you began?

A: My perception of the relationship between the PDs and the DAs has changed a lot here. At my former job, the relationship between the PDs office and the DAs office was highly adversarial.  In Bedford, there’s a real feeling that both sides have the same goal–justice and fairness.  Both sides are still very serious and passionate advocates, but I was really struck by how easily the PDs and DAs get along and communicate.

Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned?

A: Don’t take anything personal–this is really in regard to clients.  They’re frustrated and angry a lot of the time (and rightly so).  Even though you’re on their side, they sometimes get into it with you.  I never take it personally if a client gets angry or yells at me.  They’re my clients, and it is my job to be there for them.  If they need to yell and vent at someone, better me than anyone else.

Q: Any favorite moments you’d like to share?

A: Well there’s never a shortage of interesting moments at a public defenders…but I’d say my favorite moment was this summer at a bail hearing I did. I was at a different public defender agency and doing an oral argument to reduce a client’s bail. His family was at the hearing to watch and after the judge ruled and reduced his bail, the family was overjoyed. He had been in jail for several weeks and was about to lose his job, and had his whole family depending on him for support. It was such a simple, everyday hearing for me, and I didn’t feel like it was a big deal, but it was a huge deal for them. They were so appreciative, and he was incredibly grateful. Everything is relative, and even the smallest jobs to you make a huge difference in a client’s life when you’re working for a public defender.

Special thanks to Laura for her insight. If you are interested in working for a Public Defender, PSLawNet has resources for you as well.  3Ls can also apply for the 2012 Public Defender Corps and all other students can visit OCPD for more information on obtaining an internship.

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