Going into my internship, I did not know what to expect. I had plenty of previous experience in the world of private law offices and even nonprofit organizations, but public office was an area that I had yet to work in. As I write this blog post during the final week of my internship, I can say that I am grateful to have finally had an experience in the realm of public office.
Interning at the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO) this summer taught me valuable lessons about the world of work, especially the importance of communication and taking initiative. While a virtual work setting is not always ideal, working under these circumstances pushed me to make the most out of my internship. If I hadn’t utilized my communication skills or taken initiative to ask for meetings with different people in the office such as my supervisor, the head of the cold case unit, I would have missed out on valuable information and lessons. From meetings like the one-on-one phone call I had with my supervisor, I gained valuable tips on going to law school as well as how to successfully enter the world of social justice work. My supervisor talked to me about the importance of prioritizing loving your work over any other variable when it comes to employment. This reminded me that social justice work is something I am passionate about pursuing in the future because it is the type of work that will ensure I love what I do every day once I embark on my professional career.
One of the best parts about interning at the MDAO was that they made it clear to us interns that our work was extremely beneficial to the office. While digitizing, organizing, and going through unsolved cases may seem like a small task, it was an extremely important one that I was responsible for this summer. This task allowed me to have an impact on the MDAO because the cold case unit will now be able to proceed with solving these cases and providing the families of victims with the clarity they have been waiting for. Here is a link to an article published by the National Institute of Justice explaining how important it is to have enough tools to solve a cold case.
I try hard to remind myself that each experience I have is a steppingstone leading me to my final goal of becoming a lawyer. Looking back at the start of my internship, I would remind myself of just that. Working as an intern can be frustrating as you often wish you had more responsibility or more diversity of tasks. As I went through the months of the MDAO internship program, I came to remember that these experiences are the ones that will lead me to conquer big tasks and assume leadership positions in the future. To anyone looking to pursue an internship or career in the legal field: go for it! Throughout the many interviews I did that led me to this summer’s internship, I was constantly told that experience is one of the most important things. Go out and get that experience now because each experience you have will allow you to achieve your bigger goals!
This past semester I took Legal Studies 116B: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: Constitutional Debates. This course, taught by Professor Daniel Breen, explored the history and politics of civil rights and civil liberties within the United States. The course investigated an array of legal topics including privacy, equal protection, and racial discrimination. The course involved reading many landmark Supreme Court cases such as Baker v. Carr, Grutter v. Bollinger and Schenck v. United States. The most important lesson I learned from this course is the impact that past Supreme Court decisions have on the rulings of present-day cases. I learned this not only through lectures but by writing papers in which I would justify certain verdicts with backings from past Supreme Court rulings.
Learning about the longstanding importance of the verdicts of these cases holds much significance for me. As a student with a passion for history and politics, and with hopes to head to law school after Brandeis, realizing how important and enduring court rulings are reminds me why this is the career path I have chosen. This class taught me that case rulings are important for more than just one person because they set the precedent for future verdicts.
I am grateful that I took this class the semester before my internship with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO) began, as the lessons I gained from this class are helping me to navigate both my own tasks at my internship as well as the organization’s work as a whole. At many of our intern training sessions, the district attorney and various assistant district attorneys have talked to us about how important the work of the office is because the office has the ability to dictate the remainder of one’s life.
For example, the office has the power to put a person in jail or prison which, no matter how long the sentence length, can affect the incarcerated person’s life and the life of their family too. The MDAO has expressed to the interns that this decision is not something they take lightly. As part of expressing to the interns the weight of being held pretrial and sentence length, the program will be taking the interns on a tour of the Billerica House of Corrections (with the option of attendance over zoom or in person) at the end of the internship program. Billerica is a jail that serves Middlesex County and offers many different opportunities for prisoners during their time in incarceration. This opportunity is extremely unique and demonstrates how well thought-out the MDAO intern program is. They want us to understand the weight our decisions will have because, similar to court rulings, placing someone in prison or jail is an enduring decision that can affect many.
Although this tour has yet to happen, I am looking forward to the opportunity of expanding my knowledge of the government and the weight that legal decisions carry. The discussions about the importance of our work is something I try to remember everyday as I approach my daily tasks. I remind myself that no matter how big or small my assignment of that day is, it carries weight with it because it has the potential to change and influence the lives of many.
This summer I have privilege of working as an undergraduate intern for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO), which serves the largest county in New England. The MDAO works to protect and serve those living in this area. The office engages in investigations, prosecution, and victim advocacy, as well as crime prevention, in order to create a safer county. Part of the reason I was passionate about interning for this specific office is because the work of the MDAO goes beyond prosecution; they work daily to address issues such as domestic violence and elder safety.
As an aspiring lawyer who is passionate about understanding the criminal justice system, I chose this particular field with the hopes of gaining firsthand experience in the realm of government and law, specifically in terms of crime prevention and how the criminal justice system functions. I am lucky enough to say that after my first month with the office, I already feel that I am on my way to achieving this educational goal. Part of the reason I feel I have already learned so much is because of the weekly intern trainings put on by the office. I have attended many of these sessions over the past month, including ones focused on juvenile court, diversion, and legal writing. At each of these sessions, different members of the office–including many Assistant District Attorneys–speak to us about their journey and their work. These sessions have already given me the glimpse into the everyday workings of the criminal justice system that I was looking for.
The MDAO works to combat multiple forms of social injustice, which, as a minority myself, is very important to me. One of the main forms of social injustice that the office addresses is racism, specifically racism within the criminal justice system. Throughout the past month, I have learned about many of the organization’s strategies for addressing racism, one of the best being office-wide trainings on the subject. As an intern, I have had the privilege of participating in two of these trainings, which have further opened my eyes to how racism penetrates the everyday workplace–specifically the criminal justice system.
As an undergraduate intern for the MDAO, I have been placed in the cold case unit. The cold case unit was developed in 2019 by current District Attorney Marian Ryan and works to re-examine uncharged cases across Middlesex County. I am currently responsible for digitizing decades-old cold cases. While this project may seem minuscule, after working on it for a month, I understand why it is so important. Without the digitization of these unsolved cases, the office cannot utilize new technologies to re-examine cases, which is critical to providing answers. Once my project is complete, the office will be able to re-investigate these cases in new ways and hopefully have the same level of success as they did in January 2019 when they solved the 50-year-old murder of a Harvard graduate student. I feel honored to have a part in working to bring justice to these families who still do not have clear answers about what happened to their loved ones.