Witness Investigation for New York's Legal Aid Society
During her time at Hamilton, Annie Sher ’18 has developed a strong interest in public interest law and advocacy. Last summer, she interned in the legal department at Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit service provider for victims of gender violence.
“While looking for an internship this year I knew I wanted to remain in the legal sphere. I focused my search on various types of organizations that provide pro-bono legal services,” Sher said.
At New York’s Legal Aid Society, a private, not-for-profit legal services organization, Sher works as an investigative intern assigned to the Brooklyn office, which is located in the Red Hook Community Center.
“I was attracted to Legal Aid because it is the largest public defense organization in the county, so it has really far-reaching impacts because of its advocacy and sheer volume of clients,” she said. Each year, approximately 3,000 attorneys, legal professionals and law students participate in handling 3,000 cases on behalf of Legal Aid clients.
Sher investigates cases for public defenders who generally do not immediately receive all the information about the case that the District Attorney’s office has. Her investigations include locating and interviewing witnesses (primarily complaining witnesses), canvassing for video surveillance, serving subpoenas for video evidence and reviewing crime scenes.
Concentration: History and French
Hometown: Summit, N.J.
High School: Kent Place School
Sher generally handles three to four cases per day. She will usually conduct one to two recorded interviews for these cases, ideally going to witnesses’ homes in order to speak to them in person. If she does not have their home address, Sher contacts them by phone.
Though tending to cases is her main duty, Sher often has a variety of other assignments, including searching for court records, performing background checks and inspecting cars. Since she is fully trained, Sher conducts these investigations unsupervised, but always with her partner, another Legal Aid intern.
“I personally feel proud about what I am doing because of the importance of public defense. In the criminal justice system, attorneys in organizations like LAS can advocate for individuals in poor communities which are often overly policed and criminalized,” she said. In the future, Sher aspires to continue working within the realm of public defense, ideally in a setting that brings her closer to the legal action in these types of cases.