Alternative Spring Break Exposes Students to Lawyering in Action


Carli Raben with Assistant Public Defender Liana Matthews, JD '13

Spring break was a chance to take a step away from the rigors of studying law and enjoy some hard-earned relaxation. For Miami Law students interested in public interest law, it was also a time to get involved in the community and step inside a courtroom -- the first time for many 1L students. The HOPE Public Interest Resource Center organized “mini-Alternative Break” opportunities for law students staying in Miami over the break to gain exposure to different areas of the law.

The week began on March 7, with a trip to see a collaborative model court in downtown Miami, the Drug Dependency Court. The court serves parents in the child welfare system who are struggling with substance abuse. Rather than a traditional punitive model, the court is treatment-oriented, focusing on providing comprehensive services to the family to increase the chances of reunification. Watching a very busy afternoon docket, students were able to observe lawyering in action, the judicial decision-making process as well as the challenges and obstacles faced by families caught in the child welfare system.

On March 8, students had an opportunity to shadow attorneys working at the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office for the day. Participating students observed court proceedings, client interviews, depositions, client phone calls from jail, and saw the daily life of a public defender up close.

“The attorneys I shadowed were great and didn't mind going above and beyond to ensure that I learned as much as possible in our short amount of time together,” said Latriece Jones, 2L.

1L Carli Raben concurred, “After watching the Assistant Public Defender I shadowed and seeing how their office runs (even for just a day), I felt reassured that this is a possible career path for me.”

The last activity of the week was supposed to be an excursion to observe a contested trial in Domestic Violence Court. As is often the case, the matter settled on the eve of trial. As a result, the trip will be rescheduled.

The HOPE Public Interest Resource Center looks forward to planning more opportunities for Miami Law students to get out in the community and observe different practice areas in the near future.