Internship Program

Intern group shot

The Muskegon County Public Defender (MCPD) conducts an internship program for the best and brightest students from law schools and colleges throughout the country.  Applicants who are selected become an integral part of high volume trial lawyer teams.  This is an emersive internship.  The student is not a "gofer."  This is not a "shadowing" experience.  Interns are part of the team with real life responsibilities and almost uniquely, an opportunity to exercise innitiative and innovate.  Here, read the following example of how one intern changed the life of a child:

Because the child's parents (our clients) had been abusive to him, the parent's rights were taken away and the child was placed for adoption.  Under law, the biological family of the child stand first when it comes to adoption but in this case, the Court was informed that the biological family was not interested.  This stuck an intern as odd and not in keeping with what our clients had informed us.  So, on her own initiative, the intern located the child's grandmother and found out that the Court's information was incorrect.  The grandmother DID want to adopt the child.  That changed everything.  The Court recinded its order to place the child outside his family and unltimately award the adoption to the grandmother.  This would not have happened without the intern.  The intern changed the course of one child's life forever.  

While the summer is the time when we have the largest group of interns, we recruit interns year around.  If you are in the State of Michigan, you will probably see our office represented at your career day.  Our candidates are often contacted at career days or school posting, but we receive serveral referals each year from school counselers and past interns.  And yes, you may refer yourself.  You may contact us via the information in this website.  

As internships are a pet project of the director, you may email him directly at johnsonfr@co.muskegon.mi.us.  .

Qualifications


If you are in school, you must be in academic good standing.  If you are not in school, your qualifications and motivations for joining us will be discussed when you contact this office.  Interns here come from a variety of educational backgrounds.  While most of the interns are either on a law school track or curious about that profession, interest in becoming a lawyer is NOT a prerequist for acceptance into this program.  Having an active mind is.  

We have had finance majors join us.  Architects and graphic artists too.  Much of the film work on this site was created by an intern who is a film production major.  Further, should you join us we intend to use as many of your skills that we can.  For instance, Spanish language and Korean language translations on this website were provided by interns.

Culture


We are much more like Apple than IBM.  Yes, we have rules and structure (we are, after all, a law firm) but members of this community are prized for creative thinking.  We foster an enviroment to take advantage of that. Take the following expample:

Every study we are aware of indicates that when a person returns from incarceration - prison or jail - he or she is much less likely to break the law again if she is returning to a supportive environment.  Having read that, a group of interns initiated study on a program designed to help the families of prisoners adjust to her return and help the prisoner adjust to being free again.  This program remains in the development stage as the interns' time with us ended before completion, so we await the next group of interns who would want to take up the project.  The point being though, this is an intern initiative fully supported by this administration.  It is an innovation.  The culture here supports that..

Availability


What if I work or go to school in Ann Arbor and cannot be available except in the summer?  What if I work and my hours vary?  What if I have classes?  What if I am a care giver for a child or parent and their needs are unpredictable?  What if I want to intern in the fall or winter or spring?  What if I need to get my internship finished quickly as I will not be around for long or what if I can only intern for eight hours a week?

We will work with you.

Seriously.  Interns do us a favor.  We cannot serve our clients with the type of quality legal representation that the Constitution demands without our interns.  The work interns do is important work that most law firms neglect because they have so many cases and so few lawyers and staff.  Interns make a difference.  Interns make us good, and we are very, very good at what we do here.

Benefits and Costs


We cannot compensate you monitarily.  We are a government agency and while our interns are worth their weight in gold to us, the budget is not there for stipends.  Further, the cost of getting here is borne by the intern.  The benefits though, we have been told, are worth it.  First of all, we encourage all our students to check with their career counselors at school.  Most institutions offer school credit for interning with us.

Next, it is the experience.  The trouble with a legal education is that you will not know if you truely want to practice law until you are actually doing it!  The problem there is by that time you have assumed tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, you have devoted three years to law school and another to studying the bar.  And not just you.  If you are supported by family, they have scrificed for you as well.  What if you do all that only to discover that practicing law is just not your calling?  If you spend a term with us, you will know if practicing law is for you.  Ours is an emersive experience.  You will see what the lawyer sees.  Celebrate success and disappointments with the lawyers.  You will see what sacrifices it takes to be as good as the people here are.  While the practice of law varies from corporate law to family law to criminal law to international law . . .  the core experiences are the same.  You will know if you want to practice law.

You will make friends here.  You will make contacts that may aid you in the future (especially if you reside in the Muskegon area).  You will become part of us for life.  Alumni.  Always welcomed.

Your oral reports of your internship will be the most interesting in class.  Guaranteed.

Responsibilities


We train you!  Many of the skills you will need here you have never had to have before.  We will train you how to do everything we ask of you.  No one will be thrown into the deep end and told to swim!  We will train you until you are comfortable with the task then we will trust you to do it.

  • Interview and counsel represent indigent defendants.
  • Attend and participate in trials and other hearings.
  • Identify client needs, locate services and assist clients in accessing services.
  • Represent this Office.  For many of our clients, you will be the first person they meet from the Public Defenders.
  • Have an opportunity to work in a collegian, cooperative atmosphere with other students.
  • Assist in developing cases and then participating in the defense when the trial occurs.
  • Placed in charge of projects, given real responsibilties.