JD student Katerina Stevenson spent three months working on death row cases in the US late last year when she was selected for a Reprieve Australia internship with the Gulf Regent Advocacy Centre in Texas, a legal office that specialises in capital defence, specifically for underprivileged or disadvantaged clients.
"I'm really interested in pursuing a career in criminal law and I've always been interested in the public interest defendant side and making a difference," said Katerina.
The internship intensified Katerina's passion for criminal law, enabling her to contribute to life-changing projects. "For the stage after the client has been convicted and goes forward for sentencing, the organisation would present mitigation evidence for why that client should not receive the death penalty," she said.
"My part in this would involve going through huge numbers of records, searching for mitigating factors such as mental illness or abuse."
"The entire internship was unique … It was a highlight seeing people working in a job they loved; they were very passionate about the cause and it was way beyond a nine-to-five job."
Melbourne Law School's internship program provides students with an opportunity to experience law outside the classroom, while helping to build career prospects and experience working in a range of environments. A variety of organisations from the not-for-profi government and private sectors participate in the program.
JD student Jonathan Hoe is currently a legal intern for the men's health charity foundation, Movember. Jonathan applied for the internship through the Melbourne Law School Careers Office and now works two days a week on an ongoing basis.
"I was instantly interested in the Movember internship," said Jonathan.
"It was a campaign that I have been regularly involved in and I thought to myself, 'what a great opportunity to use my legal skills and, at the same time, actually contribute to the charitable non-for-profit sector.'"
Jonathan believes his experience at Movember has given him a better understanding of the legal profession.
"In terms of career it presents a different dynamic – it shows what it's like to work as a client for a law firm," he said.
"I personally want to pursue a career at a law firm and this has given me an added experience and an appreciation of what it's like to be on the other side of the table."
Astrid Heward, Movember's General Counsel, is Jonathan's direct supervisor. Astrid worked with the Melbourne Law School Careers Office to find the right intern for the required work tasks, as well as someone who would fit the Movember culture.
Astrid describes the internship program as a positive exercise for her organisation.
"One of the great things about Jonathan is that he's been willing to give anything a go, get involved and voice opinions and ideas … It's been a huge benefit for Movember to host an intern as some of the tasks Jonathan has worked on just wouldn't have been done otherwise due to time and resource constraints."
She also believes that the program has given Jonathan valuable practical experience that will assist him in his career.
"I think he would have gained an insight into what it's like working for a not-for-profit organisation and the practical realities of how organisations like ours work."
Image: JD student Jonathan Hoe, legal intern with Movember