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The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
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Jonathan Peterson

Major: English, Philosophy
Hometown: Charlottesville, VA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I learned about this opportunity through the Career Enrichment Network's website.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I did all of the duties of a full investigator for criminal defense cases this summer. I worked for two juvenile attorneys and was given a number of responsibilities, ranging from transporting clients to taking statements from witnesses and victims and even handling evidence or crime scene investigation. Additionally, on a regular basis I had the incredible opportunity to court watch not only with groups of my peers, but also with attorneys I worked with. On top of this, I learned extensively about the criminal justice system, the difficulties it faces, and the very real problem of mass incarceration in the United States. Finally, I believe this experience may have convinced me that I want to be a Public Defender at PDS as a career after I hopefully graduate from law school.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience was incredibly beneficial academically. I spent much of it writing and reading extensively and regularly worked 55+ hour weeks. I believe that this helped to teach me a better work ethic, as I have honestly seen a marked increase in my ability to sit down and do work when I need to. Additionally, I believe that it helped me to see more disparate sides of arguments and link things I might not have normally linked together, as one of my duties was to come up with potential defenses for clients after reading the case information.

Getting to see...the absolute devotion [the lawyers] had to their clients really blew me away this summer and convinced me that Public Defense might be the type of law I want to pursue.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I hope to be a lawyer, so this internship was perfect for me. Additionally, I had always imagined law as a profession for making money, but, after this summer, I believe I met lawyers who truly view it as their passion, something I was not sure was possible. Getting to see that and the absolute devotion they had to their clients really blew me away this summer and convinced me that Public Defense might be the type of law I want to pursue.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I definitely would. It was the best summer of my life without a doubt, and you will get to work with your peers for the summer in a place like no other - the District of Columbia.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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