During college, I had an itch to “do some good” somehow, but was unsure how to go about it. Finally, when several friends remarked on my penchant for TV crime dramas, ability to solve puzzles, and listening and empathy skills, I put it all together. I went to law school to become an assistant district attorney, a job I felt could “do some good” in the world, while having the benefit of being enormously rewarding as well. The more I worked in criminal law, the more I knew this was the path for me. While I am now very aware that prosecutors are not always on the right side, nor is every defendant bad or victim good, I think the job offers the ability to make a difference and serve the public in a very meaningful way.
When I came to law school, I signed up for the Public Interest Law Association and served on the auction committee my first year. My second year I was the Co-President of PILA and oversaw the organization of the annual auction, where local businesses and professors donate items and time to raise money for grants for students who take unpaid public interest internships over the summer. The summer after my first year I interned at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in the Domestic Violence Unit. I assisted interviews with victims and witnesses and wrote direct indictment requests, including one sexual abuse case that went to trial and resulted in a guilty charge on 12 different counts. During my second year, I enrolled in the Government Lawyer Clinic where I interned at the Attorney General’s Office in the Unemployment and Insurance Fraud division, focusing on white-collar crime.
After my second year, I interned at the Dorchester District Court Division of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office as a student prosecutor, first as a summer internship and then as part of the Criminal Procedure Clinic in the fall of my third year. I was certified under the student practice rule, SJC Rule 3:03, and did arraignments, bail revocation hearings, motions to suppress, and actually had my own jury trial. I was in court every day and the experience solidified my desire to pursue this passion. Working directly with police officers, victim witness advocates, and defense attorneys really taught me a great deal about criminal law that is impossible to learn in the classroom. I also was able to observe and attempt to emulate courtroom demeanor and procedure and learn the ins and outs of the copious and detailed discovery and general paperwork procedures inherent in any government job.
Having the opportunity to be a part of PILA and raise money for students to pursue public interest internships was extremely rewarding in that possibly some students who might otherwise not have the financial means to take on an unpaid internship were able to pursue their passions and get bit by the “public interest bug.” Hopefully they were entranced enough to apply and get the job before the first loan payment comes due and their first paycheck is deposited! But no financial incentive could ever replace the intrinsic reward of a feeling that one is leaving the world a little bit of a better place than when we found it.