This summer has been so busy – I really enjoyed my nine weeks at Innocence Project New Orleans. I have completed all of the learning objectives that I formulated at the beginning of the summer. I will miss working with such a great organization, the staff, and my fellow interns. I feel much more confident in my ability to contribute to issues about which I am passionate. My research and writing skills have improved, as well as my capacity to work full-time in an office environment. I am now comfortable with legal settings such as courtrooms, prisons, and legal offices. I was able to finish several major projects, giving me a sense of accomplishment at the end of my internship.
From this experience, I will be able to approach the rest of my time at Tulane with a more critical eye towards the criminal justice system and societal structures in general. I hope to find another legal internship before I graduate that can help me to build upon my experience at IPNO. This internship also gave me a clearer view of law school and my options following law school. I would also like to investigate restrictions on the enrollment of convicted felons in public housing and limitations on the voting rights of those who were incarcerated. I would also be interested in interning with some government entity to see that facet of public interest work.
For a student interested in interning at IPNO, I would recommend that they be open-minded about cases and experiences – it can be difficult to read about crimes or meet with people who have experienced horrible oppression. It is also important for interns to take initiative in their work. I think it would be helpful for anyone interning in this field to read current literature on relevant issues and be aware of news about the criminal justice system.
My ideas of social justice have been challenged – I realize now that public interest work is much more complicated than it initially appears. Good intentions can lead to negative outcomes, and our criminal justice system is not clear-cut. I have learned that to be an effective change agent I need to be confident in my abilities to act, but also able to integrate the views of others into my approaches.
I can’t believe that I am already more than halfway through my internship at IPNO! This summer has progressed very quickly. I have already met most of my defined learning goals that I designed before my internship began. Here are my learning objectives:
1. By the end of my internship, I will discuss the experience of the female lawyers and law students in their education and careers to learn how to overcome gender barriers in my future legal path.
2. By the midpoint of my internship, I will speak with two wrongly convicted prisoners to discover how they view their time behind bars and learn how to empathize with clients.
3. Throughout the internship, I will observe the operations and environment of a nonprofit law office in order to learn how such an office functions and identify if I would be comfortable pursuing a career in nonprofit law.
4. By the end of my internship, I will apply the academic concepts of criminology and the criminal justice system to my duties at Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO). I will use my firsthand knowledge of the criminal justice system to improve my current information about the prison system in the United States.
5. By the midpoint of my internship, I will learn how to do specific legal research and investigate cases so that I can be a true asset to IPNO. I will apply these research skills to my academic work and future jobs.
Through my interactions with other interns, I have gained a lot of knowledge about law school and the obstacles that women face in order to break into the field. The legal interns have also helped me to understand the process of pursuing a career in public interest law. I have spoken with three wrongfully convicted prisoners so far throughout the summer. Hearing about their experiences and seeing their positive outlook despite horrible circumstances has been truly inspirational. Exposure to the atmosphere in a nonprofit law office has enabled me to reflect on my preferences in an office setting. I definitely have developed a much greater understanding of the system of incarceration in the United States through this internship. It is very different to learn about the criminal justice system in a criminology class and then see the results of the prison-industrial complex in letters from inmates.
I am monitoring my own growth by the ease of completing new tasks and my increasing familiarity with legal procedures and terminology. I am most proud of my ability to handle a large number of cases at one time – it can be confusing to remain knowledgeable about many different peoples’ situations at the same time. Through this internship, I am building writing and research skills that will aid me not only with papers in class, but also in my legal career.
where I park my bike behind the office
two of my fellow interns – Ashley and Matt
This summer I am interning at Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO), a nonprofit law office dedicated to freeing wrongly convicted prisoners in Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Currently, IPNO has freed or exonerated 24 people struggling against unfair practices in our criminal justice system. I had heard of IPNO prior to this internship. I plan to attend law school and pursue a career in public interest after graduation. IPNO seemed like the perfect fit for me this summer, so I applied over winter break and interviewed in February. I am one of eight interns working full time this summer – there are four undergraduate interns and four interns currently in law school. The office is located in Mid-City, around three miles from my house. Because I don’t have a car, I’ve been biking to my internship. Hopefully the bike ride will keep me in shape this summer!
My first week at IPNO was very busy but really informative. Before I started actually doing work for IPNO, I went through three days of training about the organization. Staff members presented on different aspects of IPNO’s work. I learned a lot about post-conviction law. It was also a great introduction to all of the staff at IPNO. I realized that investigation is just as large a part of this type of legal work as what I originally imagined lawyers would do – like going to court and writing briefs. Interacting with law students is also really beneficial to me. Law school seems a lot less intimidating as I’m becoming friendly with 3Ls. I also attended a Brown Bag Lunch that brought together interns from different organizations in New Orleans. Along with the other IPNO interns, I attended the forensics portion of the Innocence Policy Network Conference. I heard some fantastic speakers and learned how my role as an intern fits into a national scheme. There was a cool panel featuring leaders of laboratories that test DNA, focusing on the importance of the independence of a lab from law enforcement.
On Thursday I began interning for my assigned staff member – Zac Crawford, the Case Review Manager. Though it is challenging to look through records and decipher esoteric legal terms, I am really enjoying my tasks so far. No two cases are the same, so the eight-hour workday never becomes monotonous. I am also dealing with correspondence with potential clients. I never expected little things to be so difficult – such as navigating a new computer system or figuring out how to use the printer at the office to get an address on an envelope.
My first week was overwhelming in the amount I learned. This summer I expect to continue finding out more about public interest legal careers and gaining experience in a really awesome legal niche. I hope to learn important research skills and contribute to a really worthy cause. This internship should help me to confirm my decision to attend law school and to focus on my personal interests related to future career paths.