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A Teen's View

Reflecting on my Mentor/Internship Program

April Hildebrand

December, 2009

As a soon to be high school graduate, I had spent several dragging years sitting through required classes, all day long. So for my senior year I wanted to take any opportunity I could to get out into the "real world" so to speak and to limit my time spent in the classroom.

Frederick County high schools offer students a mentor/internship program for one or two periods each school day in which the student shadows their mentor, learns from the experience, and even gains high school credit for completing it!

Before my senior year, I had a very vague idea of what my future plans were. I jumped from every field possible- forensics, military, medical, basically any field that had a decent salary guaranteed to accompany it.

After many hours of research and taking tests to determine my specific career compatibility, I realized the legal field was calling my name. I really fantasized becoming an attorney, so I thought it'd be a wonderful opportunity to shadow an attorney on a regular basis to see if that was the career I truly wanted to pursue.

So over the summer I sat down for another couple hours, emailing literally every attorney in Frederick to see if they wouldn't mind me tagging along with them each afternoon to court or wherever their journey was destined. I got three email responses, out of the hundreds of emails I sent. One of the three responders, Dino Flores, is the defense attorney I am currently interning with, which has been a very thought-provoking, exciting experience.

The first day I went to court with Mr. Flores, I really had no idea what anything he was saying meant. He was throwing out terms like "probation before judgment, nolle prosequi, STET docket, field sobriety tests," and a load of others that I truly had no idea what their significance was. I just sort of nodded my head and pretended like I knew what he was talking about.

This went on for the first two weeks or so and if someone would have asked me if I was enjoying my internship I would have said yes and it would have been a lie. I didn't hate it but I was so utterly confused that it was beyond enjoyable for me. After the first two weeks I was convinced that becoming an attorney was beyond sanity for me. As time went on, I changed my mind, and I began to put all of the misunderstandings into perspective.

As it turned out, all of those foreign terms I once thought were extravagant, were really quite simplistic in definition. The STET docket is the inactive docket which some cases are put on when an agreement with certain conditions is made. Nolle prosequi? Is neither a guilty nor non-guilty plea in which the case is simply dropped due to reasons like insufficient evidence or that the defendant pleads guilty to a separate charge.

Field sobriety tests are standard tests police officers give to the defendant to determine if they are driving under the influence of alcohol. As it turned out, everything was really quite simple, but it just had to be put into real world situations before my mind could grasp these unheard of terms.

My original intention was to deal with civil matters of the law if I did indeed pursue a legal degree. After a few months, boy did my mind change on that matter! I sat through one consultation regarding a civil matter and that was enough for me. I couldn't stand listening to the high school drama all over again.

The point of this internship was to escape that, not engulf myself in it! Prosecution and criminal defense are my only other considerations. For now, criminal defense is my prospected path, however I have considered following in Dino and the fellow attorneys in the office footstep's and prosecuting for some time and later switching to defense as it has proved to set a better reputation as a whole.

One major idea-changing factor that I was oblivious to before and I wish to note is that the object of being a defense attorney is not to decide who is guilty and who isn't, nor to decide who is being honest and who is lying. It is to advise clients of their rights under the law and to make sure they aren't violated. A defense attorney, under my definition, protects victims of the law.

For example, assume there is a person charged with possession of marijuana. Now, say the person truly did have ten grams of pot on them, but the seizure was done in an illegal fashion, then the prosecutor has no other choice but to drop the case and a criminal walks away with no charge and/or criminal record. Clearly laws aren't designed to truly disclose who is guilty or innocent, but yet to attempt to protect citizens of their rights (Note "attempt", but that's a topic for another day).

Through this internship I am able to walk daily in the shoes of a criminal defense attorney, and I couldn't be happier! I am very thankful that I had this opportunity and now, my dreams of becoming a lawyer are no longer hindered by my fear of the unknown. Many of my questions have been answered.

Although I may never be half the lawyer that Mr. Flores is, I sure do have a much better understanding of what exactly attorneys do on a day to day basis and how the legal/court system operates. And first things first, I certainly won't waste my time intending to become a civil lawyer and seven years from now, decide I hate it!

Read other articles by April Hildebrand