Goal Setting and Contributions from my Summer at OPD

The interesting thing about my work at OPD is that the lifespan of the cases I worked on will stretch far beyond my ten week experience there this summer. Because of this, it is hard to know the exact, material impact of the work I did or its outcome. However, I was able to make small contributions to dozens of cases that will hopefully further our investigative agendas and ability to assist our clients. One of the biggest ways my leadership studies background helped me this summer was in providing me insight about how to work as part of a team. Each investigator intern at OPD is paired to another intern. The twosomes are assigned to work for a staff investigator, who investigate cases for specific attorneys. The chain of command is long and very hierarchical, so respecting the pecking order while also offering my input and perspective at appropriate times was a crucial skill. From my Theories and Models class, I remembered a reading we did about managers who struggle to excel in both task competency and emotional intelligence/ follower relations. Most people in leadership positions are either extremely skilled and knowledgeable in their area or are great at communicating with and motivating people, but fewer people are both. The author of this particular reading suggested leadership be bifurcated into task experts and relational experts. With this theory in the back of my mind, I recognized different skill sets between my partner and I. She was a great writer, very detail oriented and excellent at memorializing her investigative work. I disliked writing memos, was more comfortable communicating with clients and witnesses on the phone, and knew how to handle large sets of data. When we recognized these differences in our skill sets, we adjusted the approach we took to our work. While I don’t think you could classify either of us as the task or relational expert, we learned to delegate based on our skill sets and preferences. Writing memos about work we had done and preparing thorough questions for our interviews became tasks that she would handle, whereas I would make the phone calls to clients, victims and witnesses and manipulate the data from thousands of police calls in Excel. By understanding that we approached our work with different perspectives and skill sets, we were able to delegate and “specialize” in our own tasks while working as a team to complete the whole job. We also learned when to contribute and ask questions about investigative work versus court proceedings and how the case would be argued. 

Going into this internship, there were certain opportunities I wanted to secure for myself that allowed me to contribute to the progression of cases and my own understanding of public defense work. Specifically I wanted to go on a jail visit, watch jury selection and attend case rounds. I had the opportunity to do all of these during my ten weeks and I know how much I learned from each of them. Through jail visits, I was able to assign a face to a client whose criminal background I had been documenting for weeks. This humanized the process of investigation and reminded me of how sustaining this work can be when your clients are hopeful, multi dimensional people who are willing to work with you. Jury selection taught me so much about the trial process and the preparation that goes into it. I learned how to frame questions to jurors to get the truest answers and how to identify a juror who would be responsive to our defense theory. Finally, I learned how defense theories are crafted from case rounds. Here, attorneys and investigators share the facts of their cases and brainstorm ways to argue innocence or seek alternative outcomes and lower charges for our clients. Lawyers exercise more creativity than most people think, and seeing the inception of legal arguments that would help free our clients, reduce their bonds or grant them lesser sentences was fascinating.