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District Court 15-1-04
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Mary Lawrence

Major: Sociology, Criminology
Minor: Women's Studies
Hometown: West Chester, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

To find this opportunity I looked for local government positions I would be interested in and then simply called each of them and asked if they took summer interns. Since the Court of Common Pleas did not take undergraduate interns, I called District Court. I explained what I was looking for and asked if they had a position or something that could work, and they offered me an internship.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

As an intern for District Court, I had several project based responsibilities on top of attending and observing day to day legal proceedings. The first project I worked on founded a tracking guide for the Judge and leaders at West Chester University. This tracking guide was a compilation of data from defendants as to where certain crimes occurred and where potential danger zones are for students. The second project that I completed was examining and mapping out how the parking authority dealt with parking tickets. I made a flowchart for how the parking authority should be filing citations and what was going wrong. Then I worked with the Judge and the parking authority to point out and mend any issues that the parking authority was encountering. The experience was the most impactful to me while I was in the courtroom, however my work outside the courtroom was more beneficial to the community at large.

How did this experience impact you academically?

As a sociology and criminology major, this internship was beneficial to me, and I was also able to bring my skills to the court. While completing my projects, I used my experience with data and social research to give the court a comprehensive report as to where dangerous zones were within our town. The experiences in the courtroom were oftentimes complex, so the Judge usually had a recess where we would go to chambers and talk about what was going on before she made her decision. It was at that time where she would ask me my opinion and clear up any confusion I had. I was able to apply theories I had learned in classes, and it encouraged me to look further into problems local communities experience.

I was very grateful to have had this experience so that I could see the functions of criminal and civil law in real time.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I am currently in the process of applying to law school. Going into this summer I was convinced I was going to be a prosecutor and put bad people in jail. It turns out that that is not always the case. Oftentimes the people who were convicted in District Court did not have proper representation. There were times when there was a defendant in lock up with no attorney and the Judge would appoint whichever public defender was in front of her to take care of the arraignment. I still want to work in law, but I think I want to do victim advocacy and family law. I was very grateful to have had this experience so that I could see the functions of criminal and civil law in real time.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would recommend getting involved in lower levels of government work to any of my peers. I think it is important to see how your local government functions in the community you live in. Some of the work I completed was completely unfamiliar to me, but it gave me an opportunity to learn new skills and approach problems differently.

How has the Paterno Fellows Program had an impact on this experience?

The Paterno Fellows Program made it possible for me to accept internships without financial compensation. I felt as if what I was doing for the court was important - especially when we were short-staffed and everyone working there had to come together to keep the court afloat. I feel that I have a solid grounding in law after working for the public sector this summer, doing a Criminology study abroad program last summer, and working in the private sector in years prior. The Paterno Fellows Program pushes their students toward community involvement to enhance their academic experience which is paramount to any honors education.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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