22nd Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction–An Interview with Nicole Ostrowski

Nicole OstrowskiThe 22nd Annual Howard B. Eisenberg Do-Gooders’ Auction on behalf of the Law School’s Public Interest Law Society (PILS) will be held in the evening on Friday, February 13, 2015 at the Law School.  Proceeds from the event go to support PILS fellowships to enable Marquette law students to do public interest work in the summer.  Nicole Ostrowski, a current law student, shares her experience here as a PILS fellow.  Besides her work as a PILS fellow, Nicole is helping to organize this year’s auction.

Where did you work as a PILS fellow?

I worked at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office–Milwaukee Trial Division, both this past summer and the summer between my 1L and 2L year as a PILS fellow.

What kind of work did you do there?

I mainly worked on misdemeanor cases and did anything and everything with the cases I was assigned, including preparing for a jury trial that unfortunately did not go. I was very fortunate in my fellowships because I was able to get a lot of hands on experience with clients, including visits to the jail by myself! My time with the Public Defender has helped me learn what it’s like to actually be an attorney in practice, as opposed to simply learning how to think and write like an attorney, as we’re taught in law school.

How was the experience meaningful to you?

The experience was meaningful to me because I was able to actually see my work pay off in the sense that I was able to help my clients get the results that were best for them. I was also able to get a lot of experience being on the record in my second summer with the PD’s office, which is invaluable! My experiences as a fellow have been the most important experiences I’ve had in law school because they have reaffirmed my dream of becoming a public defender, fighting for members of indigent communities.

What did you learn in the course of your work?

I was very lucky to work with the supervising attorneys that I had because they treated me like I was a colleague rather than an intern. In doing so, they allowed me to handle or be involved in every aspect of a case, sometimes without them being present to supervise directly. It was great to have some freedom and be trusted to handle things in a manner that was satisfactory and appreciated by my supervising attorneys. I also learned that some cases will become near and dear to your heart, and that that’s ok, but it’s important to realize that you cannot let your emotions guide your work. No matter what, you must do what is best for the client, even if it emotionally pains you.

What do you like best about doing public interest law work?

I love that I’m helping people and that I can see a real difference public interest lawyers have on a community. I also love that in doing public interest work I’m giving people a voice to tell their story–one they typically they don’t get to tell, or they tell, but aren’t heard. Nothing makes your day more than having a client thank you simply for listening to and believing them.

What are you doing to help with the PILS auction?

What am I not doing is a better question! (haha) I am PILS Co-President this year and am overseeing all things “day of the auction”–that includes volunteers, the program, games, decorations, grouping items, writing descriptions for the items, and so on and so forth. To put it simply–the auction is my baby this year, and I cannot wait to have a fantastic event where everyone can gather to celebrate and raise money to support this year’s fellows!

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