Last month, Dr. Brian Cahill established a year-long internship with the Gainesville Public Defenders Office, exclusively for Psychology undergraduate students. Students will be working directly with lawyers who represent low income clients facing criminal charges in Alachua County, both misdemeanors and felonies. After a competitive process, four Psychology undergraduates have been named as the newest members of this inaugural internship cycle.
Lucie Evans is a double major in Political Science and Psychology. The Jupiter, Florida native is most excited about this internship due to its rarity that an undergraduate student has an opportunity to work a law internship and have a better understanding of the realities of the US legal system. The Gainesville Public Defender’s Office will be Lucie’s first chance to explore the legal system in a real-world scenario. Although Lucie was first introduced to law through her Father, her drive to pursue a career in law stems from her learning disabilities and understanding the lack of access to certain resources. “This frustration now inspires me to ask new questions about equality and to fight for representation for those with learning disabilities. Public defenders represent those who cannot afford to hire an attorney, those who need representation but who do not have the resources. As someone who’s spent their academic life searching for resources and representation for my hidden disabilities, being able to provide resources in return would be a gift,” Lucie stated. For her long term plans, Lucie is unsure of the specifics, but she wants to find a career that balances both psychology and law.
Hannah Jacobs is a Political Science and Psychology double major going into her third year. Her background in the legal field includes shadowing experience at a private firm in her hometown Jupiter, Florida. Hannah admires this internship for the opportunity to represent an office that gives back to the community and serves all ranges of clients. She is mostly looking forward to meeting and interviewing clients and witnesses to obtain real-life experience on cases. “I hope that hearing their stories and finding the mitigating factors in their cases will help prepare me for a career in representing the disadvantaged in society,” Jacobs stated. For her career path, Hannah is wanting to pursue a role in public defense or criminal justice reform, specifically with the goal to fix the discrepancies and holes in the criminal justice system. Even the mere exposure to flaws in the criminal justice system has been enough to inspire and motivate Hannah to use her career to reverse their effects.
Sarah Rotenberger is a fourth year UF psychology and criminology double major from West Palm Beach, Florida. Serving as an intern for the Gainesville Public Defender’s office will be her first chance working in law, but she has known she wants to enter the field of law for several years. During her junior year, Sarah took Legal Psychology with Dr. Cahill, where she fine-tuned her interest in the field. “When I received an e-mail notifying all psychology majors of the PD’s internship, I knew that it would provide me with a great opportunity to get my foot through the door of the field of law, a chance that I did not want to let pass,” Sarah stated. Sarah is most looking forward to helping the public defender’s office provide counsel to low income clients in the community. She believes this internship will bring her closer to her academic and professional goals in either specializing in civil rights law, research in psychology and the legal system, or provide counseling to victims. Overall, her ultimate goal for her career to is always make a positive difference in the lives of under-served communities.
Milagros Pilipiak is a third year political science and psychology double major with a minor in spanish. She was originally born in Buenos Aires, Argentina but has lived in Pembroke Pines, Florida for the last 15 years. Milagros served as an intern during Summer 2018 for a small family law firm, where she worked with prenups, divorces, and child custody. She was responsible for researching each case, attending court with the attorneys, and writing motions that were to be filed. Milagros also currently serves as a volunteer for the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, an organization that provides a voice in court to abused and neglected children. She has always had an interest in the legal field and wants to explore all aspects of law. “This year, I was able to take Legal Psychology with Dr. Cahill, and it gave me such an interesting take on the law and psychology and how they work together. I applied for this internship as I want to learn more about what being a Public Defender entails and seeing how these two merge with each other,” Milagros stated. She is most looking forward to interacting with attorneys to see what life is truly like for a Public Defender.