Duties of the Investigative Intern
A thorough investigation of a criminal case is a prerequisite to a good defense. A defense investigator’s job is to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case and to provide a basis for the defense theory. We can never assume anything the prosecution turns over is fact or complete. Pre-trial defense investigation is therefore necessary to properly advise the client, make strategic decisions about the case, and to prepare for trial.
Investigative responsibilities include but are not limited to: locating and interviewing witnesses in both the field and local detention facilities; drafting statements and memoranda for use in court hearings and at trial; conducting comprehensive criminal background checks; locating, collecting, reviewing and summarizing all written records and documentation that is relevant to the case; photographing, measuring and diagramming crime scenes and creating demonstrative evidence for trial, reviewing and transcribing body worn cameras, conducting social media checks, submitting and reviewing Foia requests, going to courthouse to retrieve and review records. Interns conduct all investigation in pairs.
Lastly, interns are responsible for assisting the attorney in last-minute trial preparation and resolving issues that arise while the attorney is in trial. Interns coordinate defense witnesses, making sure that they are subpoenaed and have transportation to the courthouse. Investigators will also have to testify in some cases.
Investigative interns are involved in all aspects of case preparation including providing strategic recommendations. Attorneys are encouraged to include their interns on consultations, plea negotiations, client meetings and strategy sessions.
Structure of the Internship Program
Each fall, spring, and summer semester, the Investigative Internship Program has 4 positions available. All undergraduate students, recent graduates and graduate students in the area of Chicago are eligible. (More information on qualifications can be found in the section covering the selection process.)
During the first week of the program, interns are trained in investigative strategies and techniques, legal concepts, and the application of the law in criminal cases. The training week has relatively set hours – each day begins by 9:00 a.m. and ends at approximately 5:00 p.m. At the conclusion of the training week, each intern is assigned an investigative partner and attorneys they will work with.
Once the assignments have been made, interns begin investigating cases. They are assisted by comprehensive investigative directions and daily guidance from both their attorneys and the Investigations Supervisor. Interns work on a variety of cases–some are newly acquired and others have been partially investigated. Most interns are able to participate in all phases of pre-trial development, and to gain a deep understanding of the criminal justice process. The Investigation Supervisor will provide a midterm and end of term evaluation for the interns performance.
Duration of the Internship
All interns are required to commit a minimum of 15 weeks during the spring and fall semester terms or 12 weeks during the summer term. Because many students who participate in the program are undergraduate students enrolled in a college on a semester schedule, the commencement and conclusion dates are consistent with those schedules. Interns may sometimes be permitted to take off days over the course of the term, but applicants should not make plans that create significant conflicts during the internship.
The beginning and ending dates for each term are noted in the application information page. Each term, there is only one starting date. All interns are expected to begin during the first training session. The ending date is also noted in the application. Interns may not complete the internship earlier than this date; however, the internship can be extended by several weeks. Since the time between ending and beginning terms is often difficult for attorneys, it is helpful if interns can stay a week or two beyond the ending date. Applicants who are able to extend their stay at the internship should note it on the materials they submit.
Investigative interns must be able to commit a minimum of 3 full days per week although a full time commitment is preferred. Interns with fewer time constraints are given preference.
Training Week Conflicts
All interns are required to complete the entire first week training session. It is the preference of the LCLC that all interns attend the regular training week, but in some limited circumstances make-up sessions can be scheduled. Given the effort put into the regular training sessions, however, make-ups are generally not as beneficial, so incoming interns must make every effort to rearrange their schedule in order to attend.
After the first week of training, interns should expect that they will have some work that will need to be accomplished during non-business hours. For instance, some witnesses are only available during evening or weekend hours, and days leading up to a trial are generally longer due to last-minute preparation. As a result, interns should expect that they will be working some odd hours and plan accordingly. Interns are not expected to work during times that they are scheduled for class, work, seminars or other required activities. However, interns must allow for some flexibility outside of those requirements.
Investigative interns are expected to accomplish professional-level investigative work, and because interns are not required to have training or background in criminal law or investigations, great emphasis is placed upon both the initial orientation and on-going training and support. The initial training week focuses on the mechanics of defense investigation, understanding defense theories, narrative interviewing, statement and memo construction, locating witnesses, ethical guidelines, and techniques for field work. The supplemental meetings teach interns more about substantive criminal law in Illinois and how those principles should shape their tactics and focus the scope of their investigation. Topics selected are often based upon input from the interns – topics of special interest can be added by request. Previous topics have included discussion of Fourth Amendment searches and seizures, investigative strategies to support sentencing recommendations, witness contacts and interviews, and more detailed information on police procedures.
The Lawndale Christian Legal Center is located in the Lawndale community. For students without access to a car, the LCLC is accessible by public transportation.
Lawndale is a diverse and resilient neighborhood. Our office is located one door down from where Martin Luther King Jr lived in 1966 to challenge housing discrimination! Lawndale is considered a “high crime” area. Interns will receive intensive training on safety in the field and navigating around the Lawndale community. Interns also, will always work in pairs.
Interns will be provided with work space at LCLC. The majority of investigative work, however, is accomplished in the field. Interns will travel throughout Lawndale and neighboring communities and to local courthouses and police stations.
Access to Transportation
The investigation internship program need two investigators each term with access to a car. Many of the communities in which the investigations are conducted are not easily accessible by public transportation, so one member of each intern team must be able to drive. Locations traveled to include the homes of witnesses, crime scenes, jails, and prisons. Interns who use their cars for investigation must maintain their own automobile insurance, as LCLC does not provide coverage. Investigators who use their cars for this internship are reimbursed for mileage and parking while investigating. The two interns who do not have cars will be paired with the interns who have cars.
The atmosphere in the LCLC office is informal, and casual clothing such as jeans, t-shirts and sneakers are encouraged for field investigation. Please be aware that the majority of the internship will be in the field, so conservative dress is appropriate. On occasion, business attire will be necessary, especially when interns are testifying or attending court, but that will be infrequent.
LCLC is a community focused, integrated non-profit. Interns will have many opportunities to extend their learning outside of the internship program. Interns are encouraged to attend Lawndale community events, attend circle and restorative justice trainings, ride along with the Lawndale police, and tour the Cook County Detention Center. LCLC is also staffed with attorneys who have connections with local law schools, law firms, and restorative justice non-profits.
Financing the Internship
The Investigative Internship Program is an unpaid internship. The LCLC does not have funding to pay investigative interns, but participants are reimbursed for work related expenses. The LCLC does not want a potential applicant’s limited finances to prevent participation, so applicants are encouraged to seek outside funding. Some non-profit foundations and many schools now offer financial assistance to students who participate in unpaid public interest internships. LCLC offers a 100 dollar stipend per month per intern to help cover the costs of transportation to and from the internship site.
Receiving Academic Credit for the Internship
Many investigative interns are undergraduate students who are receiving academic credit for the internship. The amount of credit that is awarded varies between schools and departments. It is the responsibility of the intern to identify the college and departmental requirements of receiving credit and to select and make arrangements with a faculty sponsor, if appropriate. The Investigations Supervisor will submit any documentation needed to facilitate credit arrangements between interns and their home schools.
If a candidate is applying for one of the two positions that requires access to a car, the vehicle must be insured and participants must be prepared to present proof of automobile insurance upon acceptance to the program. LCLC does not have the ability nor the authority to provide insurance to drivers within LCLC. All staff members, including attorneys, are covered by their own personal insurance.
Although the degree of coverage will not be reviewed, it is advisable for participants to assess the appropriateness of the terms and limits of their plans.
Health and Safety Guidelines
The Investigative Internship Program requires interns to spend a great deal of time conducting field work, and because much of that work must be accomplished in high-crime areas of the city, it is important that all interns be aware of the potential risks. It is also important that interns understand the expectations of LCLC and abide by all safety guidelines and procedures.
The work of an investigative intern at LCLC involves direct contact with witnesses and defendants in the field. Participants will be conducting interviews of witnesses in their homes and in the streets, and interns may be going door to door looking for potential witnesses. In the course of an investigation, interns will also frequently come into contact with non-involved persons in the field, including some individuals involved in illegal activity. As a result, they are sometimes greeted with reluctance or even hostility. The inner-city may not be a comfortable work environment for everyone.
Given the possible risks, LCLC provides instruction in safety and conflict resolution during the initial training week. Interns are taught strategies for avoiding or minimizing risks and are provided guidelines for resolving difficult or threatening situations, should they arise. LCLC cannot, however, control the actions of others. Interns are provided with information on requirements relating to conduct and the consequences of noncompliance. Despite the training, LCLC cannot control the individual decisions of interns in the field, nor can participants be prevented from engaging in illegal or unwise activities.
Applicants are urged to consider all potential risks before making the decision to apply. Applicants are also encouraged to disclose any information that would be relevant to LCLC in determining eligibility, and to discuss any circumstances or conditions that could impact health and safety. LCLC also expects that applicants will discuss the program with parents, guardians, spouses or anyone else who might need to know, before accepting an offer to participate. Interns are expected to provide such persons with emergency contact information and to keep all relevant persons informed during the course of the internship. Given the degree of responsibility afforded to participants, and the potential risks inherent to inner-city field work, all interns are required to attend all training and orientation sessions provided by the program supervisor.
Although participants are encouraged to talk about the program, the work on cases is confidential. Participants can speak generally about their wok, but must not disclose the clients’ names, facts of the case or the details of the investigations they conduct.
How to Apply
For information on how to apply, please go to Investigative Internship Program Application Process