By Chelsea Townsend

Editor’s note: The Government & Public Sector Section of the North Carolina Bar Association awards up to three scholarships each year to law students who work as an unpaid interns in a North Carolina government law department. Townsend is a 2L at Elon University School of Law. 

This summer I had the pleasure of interning with the Wake County Public Defender’s Office. When asked about this experience I have a hard time figuring out where to even start. The best way that I could explain my summer is to describe it as “the best experience of my life.” I spent many of my days visiting clients in jail, drafting memorandums, serving subpoenas and conducting investigations. My favorite part of this summer was the actual hands-on experience that I gained. I spent my first year of law school learning how to essentially be a lawyer. However, it is important to note that there are some things that cannot be taught in the confines of a classroom. This internship gave me the opportunity to work on real cases with real attorneys, involving real people, who had real issues. It is one thing to learn how to conduct client interviews in class but it is a completely different thing to actually do it. Within the first week of my internship I found myself doing many of these legal tasks independently. Every day was a learning experience, and for that I am grateful.

The attorneys and investigators in the office taught me a lot, however, my clients taught me even more. They helped define my purpose and solidified my reasoning for wanting to be an attorney. They were able to teach me the power of compassion and trust. I had clients who were deeply rooted in trouble and were looking for me to be their light. They needed my help, and I was not going to let them down. It was a nice reminder that being an attorney is more than fancy suits and briefcases. In my opinion, an attorney is a brave person who does her best work to help others in times of need. Being an attorney is not something that you do, it is who you are.

I would like to thank the North Carolina Bar Association for granting me the North Carolina Government & Public Sector Section Scholarship. This scholarship allowed me to enjoy my summer internship without the added stress of financial burdens. Being granted this scholarship allowed me to put my time and energy into my clients rather than having to work a second job to cover all expenses. To everyone who contributed to this scholarship, thank you for contributing to the best experience of my life.