3L Jessica Frisina spent last summer in New Orleans as an intern at the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights (formerly known as Juvenile Regional Services). This agency provides public defense in delinquency proceedings to over 1,000 juveniles in New Orleans each year. They use a team-based approach with social workers, youth advocates, and attorneys working together to holistically support juvenile clients and their families.
Jessica was paired with a staff attorney who provided close supervision. During each day, she worked closely with the attorney on a variety of tasks. She was able to work directly with clients and their families nearly every day. She also had many opportunities to appear in court, which was one of her favorite parts of the summer. In the office, she had a chance to practice legal writing by drafting motions and other documents for the court, writing investigation requests, and making referrals to client services.
Over the course of the summer, her supervisor gradually allowed Jessica more opportunity to work on tasks independently. She was on the whole very happy with the level of supervision, feeling that her supervisor simultaneously supported and challenged her in a way that allowed her to develop new skills and served the clients’ best interest.
Jessica returned to Harvard even more committed to a career in juvenile justice. She’s continuing to develop her skills, currently working to defend juveniles in Boston through Harvard Law’s Criminal Justice Institute. She credits her summer in New Orleans with making her realize how much she enjoys working with youth and doing defense work, and that she particularly likes delinquency work.
However, in reflecting upon her summer experience, Jessica expressed that she developed a deeper belief in the need for structural change in the criminal justice system. She described seeing cases in New Orleans where the adversarial system was not serving the best long-term interests of the youth and communities she was working with. Learning from this experience, she hopes to be able to combine criminal defense work with more systemic criminal justice reform in the future.
Written by OPIA 1L Section Representative Jessica Ranucci