I cannot believe how quickly this summer flew by. I remember my first day walking into the office unsure of myself, and what would come of the summer. Right away the advocates were extremely friendly and excited to work with me. Ending the summer with them taking me out to lunch showed me just how far I had come since that first day. I learned so much about the role of not only the advocates, but also of everybody else in the office. I went into the summer hoping to learn more about the criminal justice system and whether or not I wanted to pursue a professional career in law. Through restitution work and monitoring court proceedings I learned an immense amount about how the criminal justice system worked. I now understand the roles of the prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victim’s advocates. My supervisor would ask me to watch the court proceedings to see what the sentence was for certain defendants. By taking notes I learned about the court procedure and the sentencing that might follow certain charges. Although, there might have been a slight pattern, I mostly learned that each case is different and could result in a different outcome.
I learned a lot from this internship, but know there is much more to learn about the legal system. I have never taken any classes before on this subject, but plan on taking as many legal courses as I can in my last year at Brandeis. This internship has also solidified my plan to go to law school in a few years. Through immersion of the criminal system, I also discovered that I do not particularly like the criminal system and much prefer civil court. I was able to observe family court once a week and felt as though that is where I would love to be able to help. Right after college, I would love to work in a family law practice, and learn more about civil law and really be able to compare that with what I learned this past summer.
I learned a lot about the criminal system as well as myself and I would suggest this experience to any other student who wants to learn more about the victims advocate role within the criminal justice system or the legal system in general. I was unsure about what I wanted to pursue for my professional career, but this summer taught me a lot about the daily work in this field. The Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office holds some of the friendliest people and they are always eager for interns. I learned the most from this internship by always putting myself out there and willing to help in any way that I could. I also asked the advocates questions about their work and the attorneys in the office were also eager to answer any questions I might have had. Another amazing aspect to this internship was the accessibility to the courtrooms. Any student interested in criminal law should pursue an internship at a states attorney’s office because they will learn so much about the criminal process. As long as questions are asked and initiatives are taken to observe interesting proceedings, than students interested in this type of internship will gain the most out of this experience. (State’s Attorney’s Offices in Vermont)
Every day I discover I learned more and more from this internship. I learned a great deal about social justice and saw first hand its use within the criminal justice system. My concept of social justice was certainly challenged through observing the different sentences that criminals would receive. Defendants did not all go straight to jail or have to pay a large fine. Some defendants left the court with only community service and counseling. In some cases this felt adequate, but others where it was a repeated offense or one that greatly affected a victim, it felt unfair. Although the court system challenged social justice in a way, I also discovered that there are many different avenues to fight for social justice. These avenues allow for many different people to make changes at all levels, ranging from personal to global. When I observed family court, I met a woman who worked at a domestic violence organization and fought for social justice at a more personal level with the victims. (Domestic Violence Organization). This discovery has inspired me to fight for social justice at this level and work with women who need support of all kinds. Social justice is certainly something that I want to fight for and I know that whichever professional path I end up taking, it will follow one of social justice.