Over the past two semesters, I was pleased to have had the opportunity to intern at the Union and Snyder County courthouses. The position was one I actively sought out based on the assumption that it would help me understand—at a hands-on level—what I might be doing after completing law school. As it turned out, the internship taught me far more than I had originally imagined it would.
As an intern I did a lot of observing. I often sat next to the court stenographer during proceedings and spent much of my time thinking about the specific type of procedure that was before the court. I was interested in what made one case different from other cases in the same category and how these differences might ultimately affect the judge’s decisions. Afterward, I often had extensive discussions with the judge about what I thought of each case and how I might handle a similar scenario. In addition to the observations, I read a lot of case files, which led to asking a lot of questions about various laws and procedures. I also was a filer, photo-copier and researcher on a variety of cases.
Some of the highlights of my internship included my fairly free access to behind-the-scenes conversations between judges, secretaries, lawyers and the district attorney and other members of the court work group. This was the part of my internship where I probably learned the most. Other highlights included serving as a principal organizer of a mock-trial between two local high schools for Union County’s bicentennial. This project consisted of contacting both schools, setting up meetings, and, my favorite part, looking at real files dating back to 1813 (the first year the Union County Courthouse was established). In addition, I greatly enjoyed the excitement of high-security hearings, interacting with coworkers and legal professionals in high-stress situations, and of course, the annual holiday party.
I learned a lot from this internship and could not be more grateful to have had the experience. I learned that, at the end of the day, judges and lawyers and policemen are all just normal folks. I think the position allowed me to become much better at handling myself and my emotions in stressful situations. Most importantly, I learned that, contrary to what I had originally believed, law school is not for me. As I initially approached the internship, I was thankful to have been given the opportunity to gain real-world legal experience that would allow me to beef up my law school applications. Now, I realize the thing I am most thankful for is to know ahead of time—before spending tens of thousands of dollars on law school—that a career in law is not what I want.