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Trustee Scholar Allison Owen ’07 (Cheshire, Conn.) hasn’t decided what law school she wants to attend, but thanks to a summer internship made possible by an endowment from the College’s Office of Career Services, she knows exactly what type of law she wants to practice.

Owen, who has an individualized major in law and philosophy along with a Spanish minor, spent her summer in Hartford working at the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office under assistant state attorney David Gulick.

“I worked with the assistant state attorney, who is a prosecutor, as he dealt with state defenders and private attorneys, plea bargained, went through arraignments, and appeared at trials,” Owen says. “One of the best aspects was attending two different trials from start to finish. I watched the entire process, from jury selection all the way though to sentencing, and got to experience all of the knowledge and skills I will need to be able to deal with everything.

“It got me so excited because it was finally something I could see myself doing. The experience showed me the inner workings of the judicial system and you can’t get that from a textbook — to be there and see the excitement of attorneys, it was just wonderful. I’ve been searching for what I want to do for a long time and this opportunity really helped me find the objective and direction of what I want to work toward.”

In addition to shadowing Gulick, Owen spent time observing proceedings in the family services and probation divisions of the court.

“Although she did a lot of actual work for us, I really wanted her to get the full flavor of the system,” Gulick says.

Owen’s performance in all of her responsibilities was top of the line, he adds.

“She was very enthusiastic,” he says. “She didn’t just come in every day on time, she came in early, she never questioned why we were doing something, and accepted every task and did it to the best of her ability — everyone in the office enjoyed working with her.”

The breadth of experiences Owen received through the internship gave her insight into the defense and prosecutorial sides of the law, and her observations persuaded her to lean toward one area.

“I do sympathize with the public defenders and know that everyone has the right to a defense, but I found that what I loved was the prosecutor’s office and advocating for the victims – that’s what really got to me,” she explains.

Owen was particularly impressed by one of the state’s prosecutors.

“During one trial, the defense was not conducting themselves the way they should, and the [prosecuting] attorney never lost her composure — she just kept getting up and stating her objections and the judge would agree with her,” Owen says. “Most people were getting frustrated for her, but she was persistent and broke the defense down. I admired her persistence. She knew what she was talking about, had confidence in her own knowledge of the law, and she was very passionate about her case.”

After working with Owen for a few months, Gulick believes that if she wants to pursue a career as a state’s attorney, her personality, instinct, and intelligence would make her a success.

“I think she could be a good trial lawyer, whether criminal or not,” he explains. “She has the passion to advocate. Whatever side you find yourself on in the trial, you’re advocating your position and good trial lawyers need to listen to what the person on the stand is saying, especially if it’s not your witness. If you are able to do that, you’re able to pick apart certain things.

“When Allison worked with me, we would have to meet with the defense, and on a number of occasions she was able to see through a number of their lines, or pick up on something they left out of the conversations. She definitely has the instincts.”

Owen believes her remaining time at Lafayette will become more meaningful as a result of this internship.

“I will be able to narrow down my goals and focus even more, so I can go to my adviser and say, ‘This is what I want to do, how can I tailor my experience here to what I want it to be?’ Also, I will be able to work with the career services center to find another internship or externship that narrows my career goals down even further,” Owen says, adding that she is thankful for the financial support provided by career services, which allowed her to accept the unpaid internship.

“Without that stipend, I wouldn’t have been able to do this and I wouldn’t know about the direction I want my life to go,” she says.

Even if Owen changes her mind about becoming a criminal lawyer, the time she devoted to the internship would be time well spent.

“When people graduate from law school, they really don’t have a clue what to expect,” Gulick says. “This experience is really eye-opening and shows individuals whether they want to do criminal work or if they want to be a trial lawyer at all. I think by seeing all that she did, it will reinforce in her if she really wants to be a lawyer and if she does, definitely give her an idea of whether she wants to go into the criminal aspect of it.

“Personally, when I went to law school, I had been a police officer for five years, so I knew a lot about the law, but the way the textbooks describe things, it’s difficult to picture just by reading about them. I didn’t do an internship in this environment and when I came to this position, I realized how much I missed out and how much more comfortable I would have been with the system and in the courtroom if I had. Anyone who can get an internship like this, even if they’re slightly interested in criminal law, should do it — I think it’s an invaluable experience.”

Owen is philanthropy chair of Pi Beta Phi sorority, a Lafayette peer counselor, “Girls Talk” coordinator at Boys and Girls Club of Easton, and a member of College Democrats. She also has tutored after school at March Elementary School. She is a graduate of Cheshire High School.

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars like Owen have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 ($8,000 effective with the Class of 2009) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

Categorized in: Academic News