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Summer Work Profile: Ramos finds passion in public defense

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As a biology undergraduate, Beth Ramos, now a third-year Penn State Law student, realized that she wanted to work with people, not in a laboratory. She went on an alternative winter break trip, where she worked in a community kitchen, and what she saw made her want to be able to help people in unfortunate situations. That brought her to Penn State Law, and inspired her to look at a career in public defense.

While searching for internship opportunities, the Penn State Law Career Services Office brought the Equal Justice Conference and Career Fair, the largest national public interest legal career fair in the country, to Ramos’s attention. She attended in October, and met Megan Shapiro from the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC). The Center’s focus is providing legal representation to low-income people charged with capital crimes in Louisiana. After speaking with Shapiro, Ramos felt like this organization would be a good fit for her, and she had an offer before she left the fair.

Throughout her time with the LCAC, Ramos worked on legal and factual research both for mitigation on various cases as well as pre-trial issues. Exercises on jury selection were a big part of her time; Craigslist ads were put out to bring in mock jurors in order to get an idea of who to focus on, and what questions to ask. Former jurors of a previous trial were also interviewed in the process.

Arguably her favorite part of her internship, though, was interacting with clients. “The people I met with always seemed appreciative and would put everything into perspective for me,” said Ramos.

And while she does credit her courses at Penn State Law for her research, database, and citations skills, which were all critical in this position, she notes that working as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Penn State Law was also vital. That experience gave her the ability to communicate with all types of people in stressful situations.

Ramos noted that one of the challenging aspects of working for the LCAC was the time line of the process.

“You want to see a result. Keeping motivated without seeing immediate progress is difficult. But working with the overall end goal in mind certainly helps,” she said.

Working with the LCAC, Ramos learned how important little details are and how important records are. She also learned that she would still like to pursue a career in public defense.

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