My personal plan paper opened with my interest in gaining experience within the legal field. At the time of writing about my personal plans, I had recently finished interning within a regional office of a national corporate litigation law firm called Goldberg Segalla. I found the work pace at this office to be too slow and aimed for my summer internship to be located in a busy city that fostered a much faster pace. I found the environment at DMR to fulfil this desire for a busier work pace; especially being located in Manhattan’s Financial District. Interning for a sole-practitioner meant being part of every aspect of an attorney’s agenda; absolutely every part of the legal process was Devon’s personal responsibility. We spent our days quite literally running around courthouses in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, as well as other random locations necessary to complete smaller tasks. My experience was definitely busy, I felt as if I was sitting front-row of each step of the litigation. I remember being in awe when an attorney at Goldberg Segalla allowed me to observe her deposition, and even more excited when she brought me to a courthouse for the first time to deliver papers. With Devon, these field trips became casual daily activities. I learned the importance of organization when taking on multiple cases at a time, especially when observing how far in advance the court arranges future hearings and meetings. The fast-pace of DMR is the type of environment I could see myself thriving in in a future career, however, with definitely less daily travel.
In addition to work-pace, my personal plan paper referenced potentially interning in another legal office for an opportunity to immerse myself in a different field of law. My internship with DMR did exactly that. I noted my consideration of attending law school in the future, and how this sort of experience would be beneficial exposure before making such a great commitment. Fortunately, my experience did indeed provide this exposure inside the world of both a practicing attorney and the criminal justice system.
Within my site description and personal contribution paper, I mention my coursework from my Justice and Civil Society class. My Justice class was the first exposure I had to learning about several social injustices such as the war on drugs, the issue of mass incarceration, and poverty and welfare. While the class material did indeed provide for a sound academic perspective to enter such a legal field with, I find that following my experience these injustices are just as systematically difficult as I had learned about.
In a recent blog post towards the end of my internship, I speak about some systematic issues within criminal proceedings cause major difficulties and slow the legal process. These issues are similar to that of what I was taught in my Justice class, and I found it extremely frustrating to face as a defense attorney. A recurring theme throughout the past six weeks was how slow every step of the legal process was. I spent most of my day waiting for a response or reaction regardless of how timely Devon or I was on our behalf. Additionally, I observed the reluctance of legal representatives and police officers to approach a criminal case without the negative connotation associated with it. The danger that comes along with communicating with and representing criminals is also an element I do not think I could live with as a career. Devon often visits correctional facilities and prisons, and I would not feel comfortable having to do so as a staple to my work. Nonetheless, my internship experience fulfilled this component of my personal plan paper; I immersed myself in a different field of law and learned a lot about myself and the practice while doing so.
A major goal of mine that I mention in my personal plan paper and learning contract is to further develop critical thinking skills. I aimed to intern in an organization that would challenge the way in which I understand complex problems, as well as broaden my perceptions. My internship did indeed exercise these skills and forced me to understand each case from a perspective opposite of my own moral right reason. I had to empathize with individuals that are from entirely different backgrounds and morals than me, and who were convicted of crimes that hurt themselves and other people. I would remind myself that every person deserves representation, and that often other people convicted of the same crimes faced harsher sentencing simply because they couldn’t afford a non-court appointed counsel. I would often remind myself of this when faced with difficult cases, as it allowed me to understand their perspective more than merely reading the file. I was able to allow myself to become more comfortable defending clients with criminal charges, and therefore able to effectively think from other angles to support the case. For example, I found it extremely difficult to represent a client arrested for rape. After a conversation with Devon about how she could morally take on such a case, I was able to take a step back and evaluate the circumstances of the incident. I researched the area in which the incident took place, which was an extremely dangerous part of Manhattan in an apartment with a high crime rate and very low security. I sifted through an approximately 400-page file that contained every crime that took place both inside and outside of the building, including sex crimes, murder, assault, and trespass. Utilizing my skills with Excel, I organized the file by crime, date, and location in a fast and accurate manor. Devon was able to establish the setting as extremely dangerous with negligent security. This provided a solid angle to present the case, and because it was the true setting of the incident, I was less uneasy about working on the case; especially when reading further about the nature of the case and the other actors involved. I have exercised this same approach of thinking differently about the incident in regard to other non-rape related cases such as with possession of drug as well as with an assault within a jail. This exemplifies exercising critical thinking skills to approach incidents from different perspectives. I found there to be several other instances where I had to take a step back from a file to approach it differently than what my instinctual response would be. In the same vein, this also strengthened my human service skills. The ability to understand different perspectives thus enables the ability to empathize with people that are different than I am. I observed the way in which Devon is able to empathize with her clients to develop more genuine and trusting relationships.
Within my Jepson classes, I learned about the dynamic of leaders and followers and how this dynamic aligns with particular moral relationships. Throughout my internship I observed different accounts of this dynamic; with other legal representatives and actors in the courtroom as well as between Devon and her clients. I noticed a great difference between both accounts, especially in regard to the shift in power. The leadership within the courtroom is much more complex and mainly focuses on the judge and district attorney as withholding the most decision-making power.
Upon observing Devon’s interactions with specific legal representatives, such as with the district attorney, I observed a distinct relationship which parallels with the Leader Member Exchange (LMX) theory of leadership. LMX theory relates to the interactions between leaders and followers and explains why leaders ought to form individualized relationships with their followers. LMX theory recognizes benefits for both parties as a result of strong relationships. Because Devon has worked closely with the same district attorney over the course of several years, they have developed a mutually beneficial relationship. The district attorney represents the city and offers plea deals to Devon’s clients as an alternative to trial. I have noticed how the district attorney is inclined to vouch for more lenient deals for Devon’s cases. In return, the district attorney has one less lawyer arguing with the city and making negotiation difficult. I have observed LMX theory within the attorney-client relationships, as well. Central to Devon’s mission statement is for her practice to foster a “personalized experience.” This manifests directly within the attorney-client relationship as it relates to LMX theory. Clients who have developed more of a relationship with Devon have felt more comfortable to provide more information about their case. Additionally, there is a higher degree of trust and respect, which alleviates unnecessary stress that might otherwise arise throughout the litigation process. For instance, clients who have had multiple cases with Devon or merely begin to develop a positive relationship with her upon first meeting are often prepared for each meeting and are not harassing the office on a daily basis. As a result, Devon is more inclined to adhere to their case’s needs and advocate knowing her client is appreciative and trusts her expertise.
Central to the study of leadership is analysis of the particular traits that effective leaders exhibit. As an intern for sole-practicing attorney, I have observed her highly charismatic personality as it contributes to the success of her practice. Charisma can be understood as the result of an interplay between evolved followership mechanisms, contextual factors, and physical and social cues from potential leaders. Ultimately, the function of charismatic leadership is to convince followers to believe the challenge they are confronting can be resolved. My internship experience has allowed my perception of charisma to apply to a career that acts as both a leader and a follower in different contexts. This has enabled me to understand the power of charismatic leadership especially when a leader is in a position of followership. Within the courtroom, when the power dynamic between leaders and followers shifts, Devon’s charismatic leadership carries through. Devon is able to utilize her charismatic leadership for its function of convincing the judge and jury the challenge she is arguing for can indeed be resolved on different terms than the prosecution. Devon’s inherent charismatic leadership enables her to speak persuasively whether she is holding a formal leadership position and interacting with a client, or when she is practicing in front of a judge to win a case. My experience has allowed me to see charismatic leadership as a versatile skill that is influential across contexts.
My internship at DMR was an active practice of my leadership coursework as it applies to the legal context. My experience exercised skills that are important for any career path, as well as pushed me out of my comfort-zone. I am appreciative of my site’s amazing supervisor and her dedication towards ensuring my position served as a learning experience.