Summer Experience: Barbara Merryman ’24L Barbara Merryman spent her summer clerking with the Juvenile Litigation Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore.
Barbara Merryman ’24L is originally from Baltimore, MD. She is an active member of the W&L Law community, serving as a student attorney with the Criminal Justice Clinic (CJC), Co-President of Public Interest Law Students Association (PILSA), Secretary of the Public Defense Group (PDG), Lead Articles Editor for the Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice (JCRSJ), and Head Representative for Kaplan. This past summer, she spent her time clerking with the Juvenile Litigation Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore. The summer before, she was a law clerk in the Juvenile Defense Unit at the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office in Memphis, TN. After law school, Barbara plans on serving as a defender for indigent youth.
What did you do for work this summer?
This summer, I served as a law clerk in the Juvenile Litigation Division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (MOPD) in Baltimore. I spent time in both the city and county offices.
How did you find/get this position?
I got this position through the Equal Justice Works Career Fair in October, which I highly encourage students to participate in. There are plenty of awesome employers who attend each year, and it is great exposure to the opportunities that await.
Describe your work experience.
I spent a lot of time in this role working directly with children as they traversed the juvenile legal system. With that, I was in court often and interacted with judges, prosecutors, and clerks on a daily basis. I interviewed clients and their families, conducted field investigations, drafted motions, and brainstormed defense strategies. I have always worked with youth and was eager to be able to do so in such a meaningful way this summer. Prior to law school, I was a special education teacher in Memphis, and I am consistently in awe of the energy that children bring to everything.
What were some skills you developed this summer?
In addition to building rapport with clients, I spent a substantial amount of time writing motions and improving my persuasive writing skills. Legal writing often needs to shift according to which judge is assigned to the case, so it was great practice having to adjust my style, tone, form, and content based on who was hearing the case. I imagine honing this skill will prove very useful in practice.
What surprised you about the work you did this summer?
Public defense is often an arena where people get burnt out. This summer, I was fortunate to be in an office where the resident defenders were highly conscious about maintaining themselves, and that awareness made them even better advocates for their clients.
What was your favorite aspect of this summer work experience?
I loved having the opportunity to interact with children every day as a member of an office that prides itself on being particularly client-centered. The level of advocacy at MOPD is unmatched.
Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?
I knew coming into law school that I wanted to be a public defender for youth, so this experience has really solidified that goal for me.
How do you think this experience will shape the rest of your time at W&L Law?
This experience kept my fire for this work burning. I hope to encourage others to consider this kind of work as well. I am confident that my summer in Baltimore will make me a better student attorney as I begin to work with my own clients in the Criminal Justice Clinic this school year.
Outside of Law School
Horseback Riding and Animal Rescue
Educated by Tara Westover
Favorite thing to do in Lexington
I love walking on the Chessie Trail or hiking House Mountain with my dog, Reed, as well as whatever foster puppies we may have at that moment.