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Public Interest Law Project

Elizabeth Graves

September 30, 2017

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Washington County DA

The PILP Award enabled me to serve my community this summer as a clerk at the Washington County District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s Office is responsible for protecting the public and creating a safe environment for members of the community. On the first day of my clerkship, I learned the mission of the Oregon District Attorney is to uphold the federal and state laws to “preserve the safety of the public, to protect the rights of crime victims, and to pursue justice for all citizens with skill, honor, and integrity.” I can think of no better words to describe the lessons I have learned this summer than the final three—skill, honor, and integrity.

First, I cultivated a variety of legal skills. In my legal research, I supplemented my substantive knowledge of criminal procedure with in depth research into 4th Amendment search and seizure law. I also prepared several motions that were submitted to the court, and worked closely with attorneys as they prepared for trial. This experience provided valuable insight into strategies for trial preparation, and attending trials and court appearances allowed me to observe and study different approaches to communicating with juries and arguing a variety of cases.

Second, I had the honor of serving the community by helping crime victims pursue justice for wrongs against them. As a clerk, I helped to prepare case materials and research for crimes ranging from assault to sexual abuse. I also learned about the increasing rates of elder abuse and identity fraud. From these cases, I learned how vulnerable some members of the community were to abuse from those close to them. Although these cases can be particularly difficult, they were the most rewarding cases to work on.

Third, the skilled attorneys and fellow clerks in Washington County provided daily examples of professional integrity in the legal field. Each of the individuals I worked with this summer were collaborative, helpful, and hardworking representatives of the legal community.  The members of the office were constantly working with one another to make charging decisions, strategize arguments, and prepare for trial. This team mentality is essential for an office that handles such a large and difficult caseload. Overall, working with the team of attorneys in Washington County has further strengthened my motivation to pursue a legal career helping to improve and protect my community.

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