Lehigh County Office of the District Attorney
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Daniel Zahn

Major: English, Philosophy, Communication Arts and Sciences
Minor: French, Linguistics, History
Hometown: Allentown, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I was struggling to decide what to do with my summer. I decided to schedule a meeting with an advisor to see what students before me had done and to discuss my summer plans. I left the meeting knowing what I had to do next, so I went out on a limb and sent an unsolicited email to my county District Attorney asking if he was open to having me as an intern for the summer. I wrote about my experience with the law both inside and outside of classroom. After two and a half weeks, I finally received a response saying that the office was open to the consideration of having me as an intern. They asked that I send my resume to them, and if they approved of it, I would be offered a phone interview. After the first phone interview was snowed out, I got a second phone interview and was offered a ten week summer internship. I was so delighted that my email had paid off.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I worked with other interns to aide in trial preparations and examine courtroom proceedings such as criminal trials, sentencing, and hearings. There were many different ways that we helped with trial preparations. We listened to prisoner's phone calls, annotated case files, contacted witnesses, and more. We also drafted legal memorandums and applications to be filed in the Superior Court. Many of them focused on appeal cases for which the District Attorney would have to argue or submit a brief. We were also able to engage in legal research projects that were used by the entire office. I researched the different applications of drone law and worked with the other interns to complete a comparative project on the post-conviction relief laws of five different states. I was also able to get exclusive tours of the local prison, 9-1-1 Dispatch Center, Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center, and the Digital Forensics Lab.

How did this experience impact you academically?

My internship taught me a lot about balancing multiple projects and due dates. The office was always busy, and you had to constantly stay ahead. If you were not going to make a deadline, you had to take responsibility, ask for help, or apply for an extension of the deadline - when possible. It also increased my reading comprehension skills. Having to decipher the dense text of legal briefs and memorandums - and then write some of them myself - increased my ability to comprehend and understand the legalese. It also helped solidify my decision in major. Being in the courtroom and seeing rhetoric and legal philosophy in action inspired me to continue my academic pursuit.

Being in the courtroom and seeing rhetoric and legal philosophy in action inspired me to continue my academic pursuit.

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

I hope to go to law school and become a lawyer and then a judge. This actually really complicated my career goal because I always thought I would want to be a defense lawyer. Now, after working with the prosecutors, I am not sure which side I would want to argue. It really showed me how much power the prosecution has to help the victims, especially given the amount of people who accept plea deals and the amount of power that the prosecution has in negotiating that plea deal. It gave me an inside look into the field of law that I believe is going to shape how I pursue law in the future.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I think this a great internship for after your first or second year. It really gives a broad overview of the legal field and allows you to experience how it actually is.

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

The Paterno Fellows Program benefited me in multiple ways. The first was financially. Many other interns could only work a portion of the week because they had to also take part time jobs over the summer. Because of the generosity of the Paterno Fellows Program, I was able to go to my internship the entire week. This allowed me to work on more intense research projects and have more of an impact on trial cases. The Paterno Fellows Program also helped me secure the internship. My internship supervisor told me after that one of the reasons I was chosen for the internship was because I took the initiative to participate in an honors program which showed I was dedicated to hard work and going above what is expected of me.

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