LEGAL INTERN PROGRAM
Since 2005, the Public Defender has provided interns with the opportunity to learn and interact with attorneys, clients, and the courts. While most of our interns attend Sandra Day O’Conner School of Law at Arizona State University, the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona, or the Arizona Summit Law School (formerly the Phoenix School of Law), we have also welcomed interns from the Thomas Jefferson and California Western Schools of Law in San Diego.
For example, this summer (2014), our five interns hail from Sandra Day O’Conner School of Law, James E. Rogers College of Law, and the Arizona Summit Law School. All are first-year law students except for one who has completed her second year. We are lucky to have such a diverse group with differing backgrounds and interests.
Our practical, hands-on experience includes motion practice and occasionally oral argument by interns qualified under Rule 38 of the Arizona Rules of Supreme Court. Rule 38 interns may argue a motion to the court under the supervision of an attorney. Frequently, a judge will comment on an effective and well written motion, which is often a compliment to the intern. The Public Defender will often inform the Court that an intern is working on the motion. Interns appreciate the experience of appearing before the Court. They are also given additional experience in face-to-face visits either at the jail or in the office of the County Attorney. They look forward to meeting with prosecutors along with their supervising attorney to discuss a potential resolution to a case, as well as sitting in at interviews with law enforcement, or making appearances in various court proceedings.
Because interns are unpaid, assistance from the community in providing volunteer housing has been essential for the success of our program. Interns would otherwise find it to be too costly to come live in Yuma, work, and maintain their residences in Phoenix or Tucson. Every year, generous members of the community step forward and allow interns to stay in their homes. This year we have once again found placement for all of our interns, thanks to the hospitality of Yuma citizens.
Many of our interns have gone on to success in other law firms or government practice. We have former interns working in private practice, working for the Maricopa and Pima County Public Defender and County Attorney offices, and one in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, stationed in Japan.
Take a look at some of the enthusiastic comments we get from our interns—
Absolutely do it! It has been the greatest experience!!! – Nicole, Phoenix School of Law
My experience as an intern at the Yuma County Public Defender's Office was phenomenal. Everyone was incredibly supportive and welcoming which fosters a wonderful learning environment. Through the office, I was able to work on complex legal issues and was far more involved in the trial preparation process than I had expected to be. Anyone interested in learning firsthand about criminal defense and trial advocacy should apply! – Meg, ASU
The best part of my internship was that we were exposed to most of what goes on inside and outside the courtroom and of the many players involved. I liked that we heard from different people: judges, clerks, bailiffs, IT staff, private defense attorneys, prosecutors, translators, detectives, police officers, investigators, lie detector specialist, sheriff, inmates, etc. – Juan, Phoenix School of Law
The best part of the internship, from a learning standpoint, was being able to work on real issues with real facts and real people. There is a focus and motivation that accompanies working with real consequences that is not possible in academic work-Jeff, Arizona State University
I wouldn’t change anything about the internship. From what I have heard from others doing internships, I have done more than other people have. I would tell a friend that they should come here to intern. If you want hands on experience this is the place to come- Daniel, Phoenix School of Law
The best parts of my internship included doing oral argument before the Court, meeting independently with defendants, and working on the front end of cases with the prosecutors. I enjoyed oral argument because I was able to overcome public speaking reservations and practice my oral advocacy capabilities. I enjoyed meeting independently with defendants because it forced me to dig in to the criminal statutes, rules of criminal procedure, and develop an overall strategy in handling a case from beginning to end. I enjoyed working with the prosecutor because it gave me an opportunity to see how cases are resolved outside of court, and gave me insight on how much their discretion coincides with things like personality, control, and legal styles. All of this knowledge will be useful when entering into the legal world as a novice attorney in the near future- Mariana, Phoenix School of Law
I gained invaluable experience writing memorandums and motions that were submitted directly to the court. I also thoroughly enjoyed some of the more extensive conversations that I had with various attorneys and staff, which provided me with insight into the legal field and life at this office- Ashlee, Arizona State University
If as a law student you have had relatively little exposure to the actual practice of law—especially criminal law—this is an excellent way to catch up. The attorneys make sure that the interns are involved in the most crucial parts of their cases. One truly feels wanted and appreciated here –Fred, University of Arizona
We believe that our intern program offers a great experience to the participants, while re-invigorating our lawyers. The excitement of a soon-to-be attorney is contagious, and beneficial to all of us. We hope our interns enjoy the program as much as we enjoy having them.
There are a number of advantages in working for the Yuma County Public Defender. Junior public defenders work under the supervision of knowledgeable, experienced, and respected attorneys. Attorneys obtain immediate and varied courtroom experience in significant cases and are given professional freedom within which to practice. Attorneys in the office enjoy a variety of opportunities to increase their knowledge and experience in criminal defense of clients within a culture of support and camaraderie. Attorneys have access to investigators, law clerks and a variety of experts. They practice in an atmosphere requiring advocacy but avoiding hostility with opposing attorneys. A strong sense of professionalism coupled with commitment to ethical principles guides the practice of public defenders.
Yuma County is a rapidly growing community in terms of size, population, and sophistication. Our Office will meet the needs of our community and provide opportunities to practice in specialized areas including juvenile court, appeals, mental health court, and adult criminal defense with an emphasis in specific types of charged offenses.
If you are interested in applying for a position with the Office of the Public Defender, details regarding employment and the application process may be accessed at Yuma County Goverment Job Listings