Stacy Du Clos
I spent my summer volunteering with Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), which provides criminal indigent defense in Multnomah and Washington counties. MPD represents people accused of misdemeanors, felonies, and capital cases as well. In addition to fulfilling my specific interest in indigent defense, volunteering at MPD was an exciting experience after my 1L year for other reasons as well.
First, MPD has brilliant, encouraging, and hardworking attorneys. Just by coming to the office everyday, I gained the insight of a large variety of public defenders, all of whom are friendly and approachable. Especially as a rising 2L, it was reassuring to bounce ideas off of attorneys and talk about legal issues when they started to get frustrating. I felt very comfortable communicating with the attorneys I worked with, which allowed me to learn a lot about the day-to-day practice and challenges of indigent defense.
Second, my internship at MPD helped me to hone my legal writing skills. The other research students and I were responsible for researching and writing motions on a variety of criminal cases. Our supervisor, Alex Bassos, is also the training director for MPD, and he was always our first resource for difficult legal issues and refining our motions. In consequence, I took more and more time narrowing in on issues, explaining them thoughtfully, and finally handing them off to the attorney, who would review them and eventually file them in court.
Third, I got to practice communicating with clients, which is an extremely valuable skill to gain before graduation. On Mondays, MPD holds a pro bono expungement clinic, which walks people through the steps of clearing old convictions from their records. Once an attorney ensures that someone is eligible, the research students get to work with clients one-on-one to explain the process and complete the necessary filings. I also got valuable feedback from my supervisor to see how I was communicating with clients and improve it.
Finally, at MPD, I really felt that what I wrote, researched, and provided for people was meaningful and important. Twice I wrote motions that actually resulted in the client’s charges being dismissed. Dozens of times I worked on expungements knowing that I was helping clients move forward in their lives – to apply for a job or an apartment, or just to start with a fresh record. Even when I researched something that ultimately was not a good argument for us, I knew that I had just gotten that much closer to figuring out the right argument. In the meantime, I learned a lot simply by applying my skills and knowledge to so many unique situations.