Rising 3L Erica Saluta recently started her summer position with the Minnesota First District Public Defender’s Office. She is completing an advanced misdemeanor externship through the University of St. Thomas School of Law Externship Program. Last summer she worked at the Carver County Attorney’s Office.
The misdemeanor externship is focused on giving law students hands-on experience working with the criminal justice and court systems. It allows students, with supervision from a public defender, to work directly with clients on their cases and represent them in court. Students can complete the externship during the school year, as well as in the summer.
Saluta is in the office two days out of her three-day work week this summer, participating in a hybrid of Zoom and in-person hearings. After the past year, she says she is grateful for opportunities to be in person now that COVID restrictions are loosening.
“There are more in-person hearings, which has its own pros and cons, but mostly good because I’m getting more experience at being in front of a judge, which I’ll have to do once I start my career,” Saluta said.
Saluta feels more comfortable in her second year of the externship. After taking classes such as Evidence and Criminal Procedure as a 2L, she feels more knowledgeable and confident in her work. Some of her daily duties include covering court calendars for attorneys and attending hearings, and she is hoping that as the summer goes on, she can work on ongoing projects.
“I love developing a rapport with clients and being able to help them navigate the justice system,” Saluta said. “Also, when I get the judge to agree with the arguments I make!”