Criminal Investigative Intern, Major Crimes Unit at the Fairfax Public Defender’s Office
Minor: Law & Society, Public Leadership
Class Year: 2021
What was a typical week like in your internship position?
My week consisted of reading cases, brainstorming how to approach the investigation, and going out into the field. Oftentimes, we were successful in talking to clients and witnesses. These interviews were the most crucial part of our investigation as we had to extract as much information we could, and be very attentive about every detail. This was exhausting since some interviews lasted longer than an hour, but it always paid off. After this, we would write legal memos for the lawyers, and follow up with witnesses if necessary.
What do you enjoy most about your current position?
I think looking at the justice system on the defense side is what I enjoyed the most. I wasn’t really interested in going into the law enforcement side of CCJS, but I was heavily interested in the issues that our criminal justice system has. Through this internship, I was able to learn about the discrepancies and loopholes that lead to these problems. From receiving discovery evidence at the last minute to receiving reports with too much information redacted, this can make it difficult for people in defense to appropriately prepare for trial.
How did your coursework help you in your internship?
It has, and it also hasn’t. While in a typical classroom setting, you can theorize different approaches and learn about past cases that were either successful or unsuccessful in those. This can be helpful because it allows you to brainstorm multiple options. However, being in the field and experiencing real cases with real people is an opportunity you can’t receive in a class. It can be a heart-wrenching experience because of the severity of the cases, and you have to be prepared to compartmentalize.
How did you locate your internship position?
I learned about this position through a BSOS career event back in 2019. There, I took down a lot of information about different organizations, and I was able to connect with the people that worked there. I narrowed it down to this office because of how welcoming they were in the short 5 minutes I was able to ask them questions.
Advice for students:
My advice to students is to take advantage of all the career opportunities you can get and network as much as you can, including your professors. Make lists of where you want to apply months beforehand, and try to go into a field that you know you are passionate about. If you don’t know, then don’t be afraid to be curious. Explore what you like, and what you don’t like.
This is more for CCJS students, but I recommend everyone to look for internships in different sides of the field so that you’re able to get a well rounded experience in college. There are so many opportunities that career fairs at UMD have to offer!