Ready for Trial Kathy McLaughlin '19L spent her summer in the Colorado State Public Defender office.
Kathy McLaughlin is a current 3L at W&L Law. She is originally from Seattle, WA and received her bachelor’s degree from Washington State University. For her 3L year, Kathy is a student in the criminal justice clinic, a senior articles editor for the German Law Journal, and Vice President of Media for the Women Law Students Organization. After graduation, Kathy hopes to become a public defender.
What did you do for work this summer?
This summer I worked as a certified legal intern for the Colorado State Public Defender in one of their regional offices.
How did you find/get this position?
One of my classmates worked at the Colorado State Public Defender for her 1L summer and had an amazing experience. She shared a contact with a W&L Alumni who is an attorney with the Colorado PD and I got in touch with her. The alumni talked to me on the phone and answered all my questions over application process, helped me get the interview, and then that led to a intern position in the Brighton Office. My alumni connection helped get me a contact in Colorado because I didn’t know anyone there.
Describe your work experience.
As a certified intern for the Colorado State Public Defender, you received your own caseload for the summer. I was supervised by other attorneys in the office and worked closely with them on the cases, but those cases were my responsibility. Over the course of the summer I either handled, or helped, with around 80 cases. This included being in front of a judge for your client entering in a plea of guilty, to motions hearings, and jury trials. I was in the courtroom at the minimum one day per week. My favorite part was the opportunity to sit second chair on trials with different attorneys in the office and in different courtrooms in front of different judges. During the trials, I was able to do anything from conducting cross examinations to presenting an opening statement to a jury.
What were some skills you developed this summer?
I developed so many different skills this summer, I wouldn’t be able to list them all. Some of the things I learned include how to manage a case load, how to advise clients properly, courtroom presence, how to conduct a motions hearing, and how a jury trial runs.
What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?
One of the most important classes that I took was Trial Advocacy during the spring of my 2L year. This class really taught me about how to conduct a trial and to get comfortable in a courtroom. I learned so many key skills that laid the foundation for my summer internship. I also think all of the criminal law classes were equally important, both criminal procedure cases, death penalty, and criminal law during 1L year.
What surprised you about the work you did this summer?
What surprised me the most this summer is how I was able to handle myself in the courtroom and how much I grew in my courtroom presence over the summer. At the beginning of the summer, I was more nervous making arguments in court and being at the podium alone. Towards the end of the summer, I felt very comfortable standing up for my client and trying to fight for them.
What was your favorite aspect of this summer work experience?
My favorite part of this summer’s internship was having my own cases and managing them myself. I loved working really hard on a case and then having the case dismissed or when a client got a not guilty verdict at trial. Working with clients and meeting their goals for what they wanted to happen with the case was the best part. Nothing feels more rewarding.
Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?
This experience has solidified my post graduate plans. I am committed to being a public defender and hope to return to Colorado.
How do you think this experience will shape the rest of your time at W&L Law?
I am going to be a student attorney in the criminal justice clinic for my 3L year here at W&L, and I will have the opportunity to apply all the skills I learned from my internship to my clinic clients. I am excited to take this internship experience and improve and shape my legal ability as a public defender.