Written by Melissa Lucien
During my Summer internship, I was in Rwanda for two months working with the Supreme Court, and in Uganda, I worked with local prosecutors and defense attorneys in plea bargaining. Writing this blog made me realize how great of an experience it was, and words do not do it justice.
First, being of African descent and being on the continent gave me the urge to learn more about the countries, the history, and everything in between. With Rwanda, specifically, it was fascinating to learn how they rebuilt their country within less than 30 years after what some refer to as the worst of crimes, a genocide.
On my first day, I read through their constitution and was mesmerized by its simplicity; it is very clear and precise. From my interaction with the locals, there is always a sense of nationalism, the need to do good for their country, the willingness to serve, and the accountability everyone must abide by.
Working with one of the judges of the Supreme Court and realizing how humble he is, despite all the hard work he had to accomplish to earn this title, inspired me. He takes such great pride in serving and servicing his country and community.
It reminded me of one of the reasons I went to law school in the first place. I am a first-generation immigrant from Haiti, and if you are not familiar with our history, let’s say we have had some very dark days. Since I left Haiti eight years ago, I knew I wanted to find ways to help my country. Seeing so many people with this exact expression gave me a sense of belonging; it felt like home.
Through my first project, the primary skill I took the time to improve was research because I had to present on the prosecution of international crimes to a class of judges and attorneys. By the end of my presentation, not only was I able to have a knowledgeable conversation about the subject, but I was also able to assist the judge in finding cases for his students to work on and help him grade their presentations.
My second and third projects primarily focused on conducting research and drafting judgments. I also visited some of their governmental agencies to learn about their processes and how they rebuilt the country and continue to do so. Additionally, the Judge was kind enough to plan cultural activities for us, such as attending a cultural wedding, visiting the King’s palace, and so much more.
Working with Uganda’s advocates and prosecutors, some of whom I am building life-long friendships with, I got so much hands-on experience by talking to clients and negotiating plea agreements. I thoroughly enjoy client interaction, and the biggest lesson I learned is that early client control and trust can save you so much down the line.
I also knew that I did not get to be the judge as an attorney. I had some awful cases where I struggled to represent the clients effectively. Still, it led me to realize that one of the most important things to emphasize in the legal profession is surrounding yourself with the right people.
While working in the prisons representing the clients, I had colleagues I could talk to and seek their prayers and wisdom, which made a huge difference. Being a good advocate was not just about reading and analyzing the law; it was about connecting with the client, connecting with the prosecutor, trusting and relying on my peers.
I learned so much from this internship, and I am certain that God has led me there to acquire all this knowledge in preparation for the places he will lead me to. I would participate in this externship repeatedly if I could, I still think about it now, and as much as it feels surreal, I cherish the memories and knowledge daily.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.