Law is a recent interest of mine, one which developed after I began college. As an economics major, I was initially introduced to the law through a research project I worked on that focused on the law and economics movement, a field that applies economic theory and method to the practice of law. As I became more and more interested in the law, I began thinking about a career in that field, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit myself to three years of law school following graduation from SU. Happily, my experiences working as an intern for the judges at the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas helped me overcome my reluctance.
The Adams Center for Law and Society provided one of the most important experiences I’ve had as an undergraduate at SU. As an Adams Center Scholar for the spring of 2012, I had the privilege of interning at the Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas for an entire semester.
During that time, I sat in on various types of hearings, as well as civil proceedings and criminal trials. I worked closely with Judge William Harvey Wiest, as well as with President Judge Robert Sacavage and Judge Charles H. Saylor, frequently meeting with them in their chambers to discuss different proceedings that were underway at the court house. These men were some of the smartest people I have ever met and it was a privilege to learn from them.
Having judges and their law clerks available to answer questions was a tremendous resource for me, as was my ongoing interaction with public defenders, the district attorney and local law enforcement personnel. All of these individuals contributed to giving me a perspective on law which cannot be learned in the classroom. Participating in discussions with the various members of the court workgroup offered a great way to learn the process of law and gain an understanding of how it is interpreted.
Over the course of my internship, as I gained more experience, the judges showed me how to brief cases for them and even invited me to help them write opinions in some cases. My understanding of law and the operations of the court were pretty minimal before this internship opportunity came along. Now, I have a good working knowledge of the criminal code, legal procedure, and what goes on in the courtroom, as well as behind the scenes in a county courthouse.
My experience as an Adams Center Scholar was invaluable in any number of ways—especially in terms of helping me decide on a career in law and preparing me for law school. It’s something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.