During my first week with the Florida Justice Institute, I have mostly been learning about the organization’s day to day work. I have sat in on a lot of meetings and calls, and have been personally assigned a docket of incident reports from one of the firm’s lawsuits to code, as well as a set of undivided incident reports to bookmark myself. This work has been specifically assigned to me because the amount of incident reports that have been sent by the Defendants and need to be coded is overwhelming for FJI, which is a small organization. They need interns to help sort through and code the material so lawyers can identify patterns and data in the reports concerning confinement to present evidence of the misuse and ill-effects of confinement in the Florida correctional system. However, that’s not to say the work I have been doing is simple. While coding can get repetitive at times, it requires a lot of critical thinking and reading skills to be able to parse out the details of the case from the officer write-up and categorize what occurred and how it is relevant. There’s nothing really unclear thus far, our (myself and the other Duke intern) primary contact in the organization has spent a lot of time with us making sure we are trained and prepared, and debriefing with us following meetings. Once, I was asked to take notes for FJI and other organizations they’re partnering with during their big weekly meeting. That was certainly challenging given I’m still not familiar with all the shorthand used to discuss the cases, as well as the details of the cases themselves. Thankfully, our contact Laura took the time out to help me supplement the notes so they were ready to send out to everyone. It is a constant learning experience, especially having to follow hours of attorneys speaking over Zoom while in my living room.
I’m excited about the opportunities to listen on real attorneying, especially involving the people we’re trying to serve. Last week I had the chance to listen in on a call between one of our attorneys and a plaintiff in our solitary confinement lawsuit. Having that opportunity to put a voice and conversation to a name I had been reading about was fantastic, it really put the work we’re doing in perspective. Today I was allowed to listen in on a real deposition of the plaintiff in our Hepatitis C case. It is fascinating to hear the different lawyering and interviewing styles, and how attorneys from different parties interact.
If I had any outstanding questions, it is whether I will be asked to do any work other than coding and bookmarking during these 8 weeks. But either way, the experience has been exciting and challenging so far. I’m slowly getting the hang of the terms used and the details of FJI’s cases, and familiarizing myself with my coworkers who have really made an effort to integrate us into the team despite the remote work situation.