Bianca Gianfrate '11
Major: Political Science, Psychology
Internship: Drug and Family Courts of Otsego County
Credit/Time: 3 credits, J-Term
How did you find out about your internship?
I met with Melissa Marietta. I wanted to do something with political science and the law. In the drug and family courts, certain programs are very psychology related. This one was definitely more law oriented.
How would you describe a typical day at your internship?
I worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week at the Drug and Family Courts of Otsego County in Cooperstown. I would input members in a database, answer phone calls, and look at the judge’s agenda to decide the cases I wanted to sit in on that day. Sometimes I did research for the judge.
Occasionally, people would have to come in for a drug test. Other times they would have random drug tests at their houses and they would have to be in at certain times. During custody battles people were usually separating, although I did see one adoption case.
Did you complete any special projects?
I wrote a paper on local courts and whether the local court system was actually beneficial to the community. The court taught people how to move away from drugs instead of putting them in jail.
What surprised you the most?
In a small town, the lawyers would be friends outside the courtroom, and then be arguing against each other ten minutes later in court. I was surprised by their loyalty to their clients, whether they agreed with them or not. In the judge's chambers they were less formal. They would try to reach an agreement before the more formal setting.
What did you learn that you wish you had known before?
You have to be interested in the law or court proceedings. You should be comfortable meeting with other people and have the initiative to ask questions rather than wait to be told what to do.
Were there any special challenges?
In court you have to keep your composure even when you find out startling information about someone. In the judges’ chambers, the court proceedings, and implementing personal information, you have to keep all of that confidential. As a lawyer, the challenge would be defending someone you think is guilty. The lawyers’ clients would do something stupid and they have to defend those actions. It’s the challenge of the profession.
What did you find most satisfying?
Members involved in the drug program would meet to see how the people improved. When they improved, it was great to see kids with their families again.
How has this internship influenced your future career decisions?
I’m still conflicted about whether to continue with psychology or law. If I did go to law school, I could definitely see myself as a lawyer.
What advice do you have for other students considering a similar internship?
Try as many internships as possible. I was nervous making that first call, but people are a lot more understanding than you think. Just go for it.