Our Summer Series continues! This series highlights different Latina students and law grads as they embark in their summer jobs and/or bar prep all across the country. We hope to provide a variety of work experiences, options for a healthy work-life balance, and general motivation through different guest contributors to help you to take charge of your summer and professional goals! Today we hear from Alexis, a rising 3L, who shows us what it’s like to find your legal calling as a law student:
My name is Alexis, and I am a rising 3L at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I came into law school thinking I’d never do criminal law, certainly not criminal defense, and definitely not public defender work. My 2L year changed that completely and sparked a passion in me to serve those who could not otherwise afford legal representation.
The first semester of 1L year left me feeling defeated. My grades were disappointing, and while I knew I was talented and smart, the numbers didn’t show it. I was seriously questioning whether or not I should keep going. The answer became clear spring semester 2L year.
Since January, I have been interning with the federal public defender’s office, and I love it. Our office represents people who are accused of a federal crime and are unable to afford counsel. The attorneys I work with are brilliant, and I have learned so much from them. Not long after starting, I knew that I wanted to be a public defender, and ultimately an assistant federal defender down the road.
I do a lot of writing and research. I also shadow the attorneys in court and in client interviews. Currently, I’m working on some long-term projects, but it’s not unusual for one of the attorneys to stop by and ask me to research an issue right away for an upcoming motion or brief. I enjoy the variety of things I get to work on.
For incoming 1Ls or anyone starting an internship, the experience is truly what you make it. To get the most out of any internship, you have to take initiative and let your office know that you want to help in any way you can. Most days if I’m not working on a project, I’ll ask around to see who needs help. Showing that you’re willing to pitch in wherever sets you apart. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. More often than not, attorneys want to explain things you might not understand at first. In my experience, they’re also willing to talk about law school and life in general. They remember what the law school struggle is like and have lots of good advice!
When people ask why I want to do criminal defense, my answer is simple. For me, it’s about safeguarding constitutional rights for everyone. It’s about making sure the government can meet its burden of proof, and it’s about holding the system accountable. If we don’t protect the rights of those who are disadvantaged, lack access to representation, or those who society labels as “bad people”, then we all lose.
While I’ll be sad to leave the federal defender’s office, this fall, I’ll be interning with the staff attorneys at the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. I’m very excited to see where the next step will take me as I prepare for practice and am happy to be in the final stretch of school!