June 27, 2019

Helen Lee

Metropolitan Public Defender
Portland, Oregon

During the summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to work at the Community Law Division of Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland, Oregon. Community Law acts as a legal aid clinic in conjunction with the public defenders in the office – handling immigration, family, and landlord/tenant law issues for clients. When people encounter the criminal justice system, it can have long-lasting impacts on their lives that hinder their ability to move forward. I learned about the positive effects that this type of legal aid can have on reducing and removing barriers to housing, education, and employment for those who have interacted with the criminal justice system. Working with the Community Law attorneys taught me the importance of holistic representation of criminal defendants, both past and present.

            I am immensely grateful to PILP for the opportunity to take an unpaid public interest internship because it gave me essential lessons in advocacy, legal analysis, ethics, and the criminal justice system. I gained experience in a myriad of legal areas, including writing motions and briefs, client intake, and preparation for hearings. This internship strengthened my commitment to serving the public interest in whatever career path I take, and helped me better understand the importance of giving back to underserved communities.