I chose to attend Rutgers Law School because of their dedication to public interest and Rutgers comes through on that promise. During my 1L year, the public interest office provided invaluable support for setting me and other students focused on public interest up for success.
This past summer I interned at the Brennan Center for Justice, a think tank dedicated to ending mass incarceration, ensuring democracy, and protecting our national liberty and security. I met my manager at Career Night, which was organized by the Rutgers Law career center for us to meet professionals from different areas of the law, and I believe this contact helped me earn an interview at the NYU Public Interest Career Fair. I was incredibly thankful to receive an offer and the opportunity to intern for an influential organization in their Justice Program.
At the Brennan Center, I mainly researched criminal record sealing and expungement laws and helped develop policy recommendations so people can be relieved of the collateral consequences of having non-violent criminal records from their past. Additionally, I delved into police brutality and deliberate indifference of officers to seek medical attention for those in their custody. Working at the Brennan Center affirmed my passion to pursue a career in public interest and criminal justice policy reform. The recommendations think tanks make transform into tangible change. This work was upsetting, but it further motivated me to work to change our criminal justice system.
Not only did I learn concrete knowledge about the topics I researched, but I learned how immensely complicated criminal law statutes can be, and how difficult it is to gather data regarding its implementation and effects. This information is vital for citizens to understand the law, its repercussions, and the collateral consequents. The secrecy of this data further drives me to understand the implementation of existing law and advocate for additional necessary reform.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire organization has been working remotely since March. This definitely altered the experience I expected, but I appreciate the effort the Brennan Center took to make the internship as normal as possible. They continued their "brown bag" lunches, where different departments shared their work to better educate all interns about the Brennan Center's mission. I was also able to meet different staff members one-on-one to learn about their professional paths and what it takes to earn a job at the Brennan Center, which is my career goal. I was able to build these valuable connections despite working from my apartment and not the office,
Unfortunately, the Brennan Center does not pay the legal interns, and I was concerned about finances. I considered pursuing a summer job to help cover expenses but first applied for a summer grant via the Rutgers Public Interest office. Numerous grants are available by application to students working for non-profits and not receiving wages, and they are funded by private donors and the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF). I was ecstatic when I learned that I was a PILF recipient!
The Public Interest Law Student Association (PILSA) spent the year raising money for PILF via events and alumni outreach. Their hard work raised enough money for numerous students to receive grants, alleviating us of financial pressure. Rutgers students, no matter their career goals, and alumni are incredibly supportive of people pursuing public interest careers and attend events to help PILSA in their mission. Receiving a PILF grant afforded me the opportunity to focus on my internship and not worry about obtaining a summer job.