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Public Interest Law Project

Alison Kavanagh

October 09, 2019

  • Alison Kavanagh

Hillsboro, Oregon

This summer I worked as a Certified Law Student and entry-level public defender in MPD’s misdemeanor section. I handled all aspects of my cases, including client counseling, legal research and writing, and court appearances. In addition to handling my own caseload of about 15-20 cases at a time, I also co-chaired a trial with a more senior attorney. I’m continuing this work now in Fall 2019 as a full-time extern.

I came to law school with dreams of being a public defender, after I found myself six years out of undergrad in a field that didn’t really interest me. I carefully planned my 1L and 2L years in the hope that I could be hired for this very position: a six-month stint in MPD’s Washington County office. It is hard to explain what it means to be finally doing the work I first started daydreaming about over 10 years ago. My clients span the gamut: some are unhoused; some suffer from debilitating mental illness; some are immigrants from all corners of the world; others are young people who started their interactions with the criminal justice system while still teenagers. Many of them are prosecuted for minor mistakes or altercations that white Middle-class folks would simply walk away from. Our criminal justice system is deeply troubled and imbalanced, but I relish this opportunity to work within it and do what I can to minimize the unequal impact it has on these already-marginalized individuals. 

Receiving the PILP stipend allowed me to do this amazing work, which was volunteer only. I would not have been able to afford living expenses through the summer without this generous grant. Ultimately this position helped me realize that public defense work is a great fit for me; I hope to work in the field again after law school, and having this experience on my resume will be an asset during that job search. Thank you to everyone whose donation made this possible!

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