What is a Typical Day in the Life of a CLIP Intern?

by Matthew Hanna, Criminal Law Internship Program Supervisor

Welcome Back to the CLIP Blog!

The CLIP Blog started off strong, so for Round 2 we’re going to dive right into some FAQs, but from a unique perspective – as questions were answered by two of our 2015 Interns, Hannah & Elle!

What’s a typical day like as a CLIP Intern?

"It’s hard to explain a “typical” day as an intern because no two days are ever the same. On any given day, you could be watching an attorney deliver a closing argument, walking through DC Police headquarters, pulling video footage off a security camera, canvassing a neighborhood for witnesses, or meeting a client in jail."

"Dynamic. Mornings often involve the more passive tasks (however important they are!) such as records requests, certifying court documents, trying to find complaining witnesses or other witnesses on social media sites, writing memoranda, reviewing discovery packets, listening to jail calls for relevant information, and communicating with clients and/or their families. In addition to their general importance to a case, these tasks increase understanding of all the details that are necessary to a sound and successful defense theory. Afternoons and evenings, meanwhile, are particularly engaging because they are typically the most fruitful times for locating individuals important to a case. Tasks include interviewing complaining witnesses and other witnesses, canvassing neighborhoods for such individuals or for additional information, subpoenaing people for trial, getting a sense of a neighborhood and social ties throughout, photographing scenes, etc. Experiences in the ‘field’ allow interns to gain insight into, and form relationships with, communities—imperative if we are to thoroughly understand a case and zealously represent a client."

Do CLIP Interns interact with one another? How’s the CLIP Intern work environment?

"The other interns are super helpful! Being paired with another intern means that you always have at least one other person around. But beyond your partner, the intern lab is usually full of other people who can help you navigate the requests and tasks that you may be unfamiliar with. The other interns have also become my close friends. Because of the unique experiences we’ve all had here, we bonded quickly. I wouldn’t want to explore DC with anyone else."

Are you really just an “Intern”?

"I was most pleasantly surprised by how inclusive my experience at PDS has been; I have truly felt a part of a team and that my efforts have mattered significantly for the outcome of each case. I have had attorneys include my partner and me in discussions of very technical strategies for hearings and trial; I’ve gone out into the field with my attorneys for particularly important interviews; I’ve been given serious responsibility in cases—such as interviewing complaining witnesses and obtaining statements—that have real implications for an individual’s life. The title “Intern” does not come close to explaining our role at PDS—we are given immense responsibility and treated like we have the skills and talent to follow through with it."

Why did you apply to be an Intern at PDS?

"I applied to PDS desiring to be inspired by attorneys who’ve chosen to work in the trenches, fighting each day for their clients, and wanting to better understand the criminal ‘justice’ system. I believe that incarceration is the slavery of today and the moral issue of our time; to understand what this system looks like from the moment the police arrive on an individual’s doorstep with allegations to the sentencing and mitigation stages is vastly important to me as I think about how I can fight the behemoth carceral state in my future career."

"I applied because I wanted to help people. I know that sounds cliché, but PDS provides a hugely important service to people that they would be unable to provide for themselves, and I wanted to be a part of that."

The CLIP Blog is here to answer any questions you (future CLIP applicant) may have. The CLIP Blog will feature guest writers and topic discussions, similar to a mailbag format.

Feel free to contact the Internship Office ([email protected]) with any questions. Thanks for reading the CLIP Blog and I hope to review your application in the near future!

Apply to CLIP Here!


Matthew Hanna
Criminal Law Internship Program Supervisor
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
633 Indiana Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 824-2375
(202) 824-2101 (fax)