This summer I worked as a law clerk for the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Portland, Oregon. The Federal Public Defender is a government agency charged with ensuring that the right to counsel is enforced on behalf of those who cannot afford such services, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. With the help of PILP, I was able to gain valuable experience in the field in which I hope to one day practice, as well as provide assistance to attorneys through legal research and Writing. I worked on various issues, such as thinking up potential challenges to an indictment, working on a motion to suppress evidence obtained from an unconstitutional search, and trying to maneuver through the complex procedural hurdles of habeas corpus litigation.
Writing legal memoranda for attorneys and receiving feedback on the work I was producing was the perfect complement to everything I learned in my Legal Research and Writing class at Lewis & Clark. It felt very validating when I first heard that something I had written was being filed with the court. I am thankful that I had an opportunity so early in my legal career to apply those skills to real world problems.
When I was not doing legal research, I was given the opportunity to accompany and learn from some very experienced attorneys while they interviewed new clients and represented them at their first court appearances. I learned a great deal from these one-on-one experiences, not only about the law but also other things that one might not be exposed to in law school, like how to communicate effectively with prosecutors, court employees, and judges. I also toured a federal prison for the first time, which was quite an eye-opening experience and one that I will not soon forget. The attorneys in the office made it a primary goal to give us an enriching and memory-filled summer. Many of them set time aside to hold lunch-time seminars and impart knowledge that they had amassed over many collective decades of practicing. This job truly changed my life and convinced me that public defense work was the career path to which I should dedicate myself. And in a time where many government agencies’ budgets are being stretched to the breaking point, PILP played an instrumental role in making that happen. I cannot overstate the importance of the role that I feel PILP plays in assisting law students, nonprofits~ and government agencies in furthering social justice.