Innocence Project New Orleans: Week One

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.

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