A little over a year ago, I was unsure about whether I wanted to be a lawyer. The law intrigued me, but I was intimidated by the rumors about how terrible law school is, how poor the job market is for law graduates, and how overworked lawyers can be. When debating where to go next in my life, though, I decided I needed to learn more about the law before I could make a decision. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering how things would’ve been if I had gone to law school.
Luckily, I found Innocence Matters and Deirdre O’Connor. Even though I wasn’t a law student yet, I had the most rewarding internship experiences I could have expected. Right away I assisted in investigating the facts of John’s case and drafting a Petition for Habeas Corpus. From organizing a successful fundraiser to my first time inside of a prison, my time interning at Innocence Matters was a time of tremendous personal and professional growth. Not only did I learn valuable skills in writing, organizing, and interviewing, but I also gained confidence in my potential as an attorney. The excitement of investigation and the fulfillment from completing the Petition removed all of the doubt that I had about law school.
When I started law school, my experience at Innocence Matters shaped nearly everything I did. I was able to frame abstract concepts in my first year classes in terms of what I had learned firsthand during my internship. Even more significant, though, was the inspiration that fueled me to be disciplined in my studies. Working on John’s case showed me firsthand the results of bad lawyering. When it came time to do homework, compete in moot court competitions, and prepare for exams, remembering these incredibly real consequences impressed upon me my responsibility as a future lawyer. Any time I was temped to break from my discipline or complain about the stress about law school, I remembered what I had seen in John’s case.
After a very successful first year and a half of law school under my belt, I am hugely grateful for my experience at Innocence Matters. Whether you are interested in law or not, I encourage you to experiment and find something that drives you in your work. My experience working on John’s case has given me my mantra, “Look into your own heart, discover what it is that gives you pain and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else.” – Kristin Armstrong