Finding my Career path in Washington D.C.

Lilly Port interned at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia as an Investigative Intern. She is planning to go to law school after undergraduate.

This semester, I participated in the Illinois in Washington program where I got the opportunity to live, work, and take classes in our nation’s capital. I got the amazing experience of being an Investigative Intern at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. The Public Defender Service represents people from indigent communities who are accused of crimes. As someone who is planning on going to law school, my semester in Washington, D.C. and my internship at the Public Defender Service gave me amazing work experience while also being exposed to a new city and new cultures.

As an Investigative Intern, I assisted investigators and attorneys with important tasks to help with their cases. Some tasks included writing subpoenas to obtain records for our clients, reviewing and taking notes on police body-worn camera footage, researching police officers’ backgrounds, canvassing the area where a crime happened, and visiting clients in the jail. This internship was something I had never experienced before, and I am grateful for having the opportunity to get such a hands-on view and perspective of the legal system through the lens of working on the defense.

This is the courthouse where I did many of my tasks involved with the internship. Sometimes I would bring clothes to a client who was in trial, and other times I would go print out case jacket records for a current case. I also got the opportunity to watch many trials. It was very interesting to get to see everything in action. I would highly recommend this internship to people who are interested in and passionate about criminal justice. Being able to help out with these cases for people who come from indigent communities was very eye-opening as well as impactful. Meeting clients made everything I did come together; getting to meet the people you are helping and putting a face to the name really helps personalize and humanize this process. Ultimately, the clients are people, too. They are granted their constitutional right to representation and to have a trial, and seeing these procedural guarantees in action was very interesting to experience.

Living in a new city was also a great experience. I had previously been to Washington, D.C. when I was in eighth grade, and getting to come back and experience the city as an adult was awesome. Washington, D.C. is a city full of culture and history, and I enjoyed being able to participate in that. I went to as many museums as I could, and took part in the unique and interesting aspects of the city.

My favorite part of living in Washington, D.C. was the many farmer’s markets and flea markets. I loved getting to see a more “local” side of the city by getting exposed to and supporting small businesses. Whether I was purchasing something or not, I loved spending time outside and walking through the markets.

Ultimately, my semester in Washington, D.C. was unforgettable and I am glad I did the Illinois in Washington program. It was a great job experience and helped me further understand what exactly I want to do with my career.