By Alex Donnelly

One of my biggest goals as a student at the University of Georgia has always been to land
an internship. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the learning atmosphere of the classroom, but there is
something to be said for real, tangible experience to apply that learning to. During the first
semester of my junior year, I would spend hours on Indeed, Handshake, and tons of other
recruiting websites trying to comb through internship opportunities all over the country. I knew
that I wanted to do an internship in the legal field, but as you can imagine, that’s some pretty
broad criteria for a search bar. To put it simply, it got to be very overwhelming.

To help myself narrow my search down and to get a bit more of a concrete direction, I
decided to set up a meeting with Adam Paige, SPIA’s Internship and Recruitment Coordinator.
After just two meetings, I was able to secure an internship for the summer of 2020 with the
Western Judicial Circuit Public Defenders Office in Athens, Georgia. After interning at the
office all summer, I decided to continue through the fall as part of the SPIA Experiential
Learning Program, which I’ll touch more on later.

In my position as an intern at the office, I am responsible for helping conduct financial
and intake interviews with clients, as well as assisting attorneys with necessary administrative
tasks so that they can be prepared for their clients’ proceedings. Having these responsibilities
means that I have a very open dialogue with the people that the office is representing. That
interaction and connection is simply something that cannot be taught in a lecture or even
interactive classroom setting. Through this exposure to so many different people, my internship
has only further solidified my desire to help people.

Beyond the daily tasks of the position, this opportunity has also given me the ability to
network with with people in the community who are doing the things that I hope to achieve one
day and those who also eventually want to achieve those same goals. Being able to assist those
people and learn about their own experiences within the field has been an invaluable resource for
me as I navigate preparing to attend law school myself. As they have taught me so much, I am
also learning from the other interns around me. Since we’re all going through the same sort of
journey, it’s both comforting and helpful to have people around to share tips, talk about current
events, and even just to understand the day to day of life as a student.

I am incredibly grateful that I was able to continue this internship position into the fall of
2020. As much as I loved my internship experience over the summer, balancing this with a full
time courseload, involvement on campus, and a job to help pay the bills would not have been a
reasonable goal to set for myself. Through SPIA’s Experiential Learning Program, I have been
able to continue to grow into this role and learn firsthand about the process of criminal justice,
while still being able to support myself. For this and many other things, I’m incredibly grateful to