Working as a certified student attorney and law clerk this summer for the Stearns County Public Defender’s Office in St. Cloud, Minn. has sharpened 2L Carly Foor’s legal skills and cemented her goal of one day working as a criminal defense attorney.
“I am one of four clerks in the office and I handle a range of work requests from the attorneys,” she said. “Everything from transcribing audio conversations; reviewing footage; legal research; creating internal memos; client visits; filing discovery requests; writing motions; and drafting briefs.”
The variety in her assignments has made Foor appreciate her opportunity to complete an externship in Minnesota’s 7th Judicial District, which is located just over 60 miles outside of Minneapolis. In addition to her other work, under the guidance of a supervising attorney, Foor manages the county’s misdemeanor and felony in custody cases, something she may not get to do in a larger, urban district.
“I have had the privilege of conducting client interviews and handling court proceedings, which includes entering pleas, discussing resolutions with the prosecution, accepting deals, making bail arguments, and setting the next court date,” she said. “I have also had the privilege of representing a client for an omnibus hearing.”
Foor says one of the most impactful activities of her summer was touring the St. Cloud Correctional Facility and meeting some of the inmates. During the tour, she and the other law clerks learned about the prison’s art therapy program.
“Some of the individuals were willing to talk to us about their artwork and shared how it has helped them get through their time in prison, as well as work through issues in their personal lives,” Foor said.
She has also observed Stearns County’s Veterans Protocol, also referred to as “veterans’ court”, which is a program for ex-military members who have been charged with an offense related to mental health or substance use. The program provides an alternative to the traditional court process for veterans whose military experience may be a contributing factor to their legal issues.
“The morning I attended, a veteran read a powerful letter he had written to the court about his story, his hardships and his progress,” Foor said. “Almost everyone in the room was in tears. It was amazing to see how much individuals can improve their lives when receiving more individualized attention and assistance, rather than a standard sentence for criminal activity.”
Foor, who is from Wisconsin, pursued the student attorney/law clerk position in Stearns County as part of St. Thomas Law’s Externship Program, which offers students the opportunity to explore different legal careers. Through the externship experience students can also learn if their long-held job ambition is truly the right one for them. That was the case for Foor, who has always known she wanted to practice criminal law and is now thriving in her clerkship.
“My comfort level with being in court has greatly improved,” Foor said. “I am looking forward to handling a contested omnibus hearing at the end of the month. I will be questioning the law enforcement officers that executed a search warrant at my client's address about potential problems with the process, as well as their conduct.”
Further evidence that the public defender’s office is a good fit for Foor: Stearns County has asked her to stay on as a part-time law clerk through the fall.