2018 Grant Award: Brenna Fisher

My summer at The Wilson Law Firm was extremely informative as I enter into law school and decide which area of the law I want to practice in. The Wilson Law Firm is a criminal practice law firm specializing in DUI criminal charges, located in the suburbs of Washington D.C. in Manassas, VA. The firm consists of two attorneys, a senior partner and an associate, and three staff members. This was particularly interesting to me because I have only worked with solo practitioners and have never been involved in a legal office where staff were involved.

As a part of my internship I was lucky enough to participate in attorney client meetings, and initial consultations with potential clients and client relations director. I accompanied both attorneys to court, and a highlight was sitting in on a sentencing hearing for solicitation of a minor. I watched DUI hearings enter the courts from start to finish, and was present when defense attorneys and prosecutors created plea bargains for the firm’s clients. As a part of my duties at the office, I answered phones, handled initial client intake, coordinated with court clerks, transcribed police interrogations, and retyped a DUI statute handbook for the firm’s reference.

Over the course of my summer, not only did I become more familiar with criminal law in general, but specifically the nuances of criminal practice in Virginia. Virginia is a uniquely strict state when it comes to criminal law. The state does not offer parole unless the prisoner requires elderly medical care. Expungements are not available for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor unless the provisions are specifically agreed to at trial. Furthermore, reckless driving charges are a Class 1 misdemeanor and any DUI over .15 blood alcohol content means a mandatory 5 days in jail. This was definitely shocking after working in the Pennsylvania criminal courts, which have comparatively lenient rules. However, it was a formative experience and I feel incredibly lucky that I have been able to work in the criminal courts in three states now during my time at Penn State.

Additionally, I was able to witness the invaluable skills that attorneys must have, which are not taught explicitly in law school. The most obvious of these is attorney client relations. I saw clients who were unhappy with their outcomes, potential clients interrogating the firm about their methods and tactics, and clients who were incredibly pleased with their outcome and easy to work with. I watched the attorneys assure clients that everything would be okay, and, conversely, reprimand clients for their poor decisions and behavior. These sorts of experiences are the most important parts of an internship. Anything that is not taught in a formal educational setting should be learned in an internship, and that is precisely what I gained during my summer at The Wilson Law Firm.

Without the PLA’s support of my internship, I would not have been able to pursue this unpaid legal internship before law school, and I would have missed a plethora of opportunities and experience that directly relate to my career path. I am so grateful for the funding from the PLA and consider myself extremely lucky to have been a part of the organization for the pasts three years. It has exponentially increased my undergraduate education by providing me with countless hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.