ACD Justice Journal: Stories & Ideas for Liberation

5 Reasons You Should Intern at ArchCity Defenders

By Ayo Kutisha, Summer ’23 Communications Intern

October 11, 2023

You always hear internship employers promise, “you won’t just be fetching coffee,” but few can promise that you’ll do meaningful work that makes an impact. At ArchCity Defenders (ACD), we can promise that.

Spring 2024 and Summer 2024 internships are now open. Learn more and Apply here.

Since 2010, hundreds of talented, passionate students from St. Louis and across the country have supported ACD’s holistic legal advocacy as interns. Whether that’s working with attorneys on direct representation or civil litigation, assisting our social work staff in providing critical services to clients, advancing our organizing and campaign efforts, or contributing to our media and policy advocacy, interns have made a meaningful impact with our clients and within this region we call home.

But your impact doesn’t start and end here. We’re dedicated to developing future leaders, thinkers, lawyers, and activists who will make the world better wherever they go. Our interns often go on to become part of our dynamic staff, but they also join other law firms and organizations, go on to federal judicial clerkships, or earn prestigious fellowship positions.

So what are you waiting for? If you’re looking to do transformative work alongside dedicated advocates, then ACD might just be your perfect fit. But don’t just take our word for it – here are five reasons you should apply to intern at ACD, in the words of our summer 22’ and summer 23’ interns themselves!

Christian Gines: The most eye-opening thing I learned at ACD is just how bad prisons and policing are. One can read about the atrocities of prisons and policing all the time, but when you are on the front lines advocating for people affected by it, it’s an entirely different experience. I’ve really enjoyed being able to sit in on different calls and see how the legal process works. From drafting memos to listening and transcribing court testimonies, I’ve enjoyed getting a holistic look at what it takes to be a lawyer. 

Logan Flori: As a pre-law undergraduate student, I knew that I wanted to work with an organization committed to addressing systemic injustices embedded within the criminal legal system. This summer, I primarily assisted attorneys in the Civil Litigation department on class-action jail conditions cases. While reviewing documents from the discovery process, my eyes were opened to the horrific conditions of jails across the state of Missouri. This is not the issue of a single facility; the prison-industrial complex encourages the dehumanization of incarcerated individuals—even pre-trial detainees who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Exposure to the injustices confronted by ACD has cemented my future as an attorney in the civil rights or public service sector.

2. You care about social justice and anti-oppression work

Carly Abramowitz: I was drawn to ArchCity Defenders by my desire to learn more about St. Louis, engage with the community, and meaningfully impact the lives of those struggling with poverty as a result of systemic racism and prejudice. The most eye-opening thing I’ve learned this summer is how all-encompassing the services and resources that ArchCity offers their clients are, in addition to the expansive external network of organizations that exist to help unhoused people in St. Louis.

Alex Lubbe: I love ACD’s mission. They are one of the few organizations in St. Louis that I feel is truly antiracist and anti-oppression, and they work at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels to enact systemic change. As a social worker, I’ve been able to see how important the self-determination of our clients is and how much power they have in their lives and in their communities.

Olivia Murray: Many organizations I’ve worked with only have the resources and infrastructure to help clients with one kind of legal issue, despite the multitude of other legal and non-legal issues the client is experiencing. I came to ACD to do direct representation work alongside civil rights litigators, social workers and community organizers, thereby providing more complete and holistic services to each client we serve. It’s really exciting to see a legal organization supporting community-led movements in the ways that community partners ask them to, without co-opting or centering themselves.

A.J Veneziano: I was most interested in ArchCity’s practice of holistic legal advocacy, something I was not aware law organizations prioritized. I was not aware of the fact that each of St. Louis County’s 94 municipalities gives out an exorbitant number of traffic tickets and fines. This is still so strange to me, and it shows how policing, capitalism, and racial profiling work together to plague the region. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other interns. Each person is so smart and unique.

4. You’ll engage with and learn from the local community

Ivy Reed: I interned with the Community Collaborations department last summer, and I saw first-hand how impactful ArchCity’s work is for the people and communities it serves. To me, the organization’s mission makes systemic change and liberation really feel possible, and I think the hope and dedication displayed by ACD’s work is so important right now. I would say the most eye-opening thing I’ve learned this summer is how much power language holds in the advocacy/organizing space. I’ve loved collaborating with the Comms team to write copy for social media because it forces us to put a lot of thought into the language we’re using and be deliberate with our writing.

Maddie Weatherfield: I am from St. Louis, and I have grown up seeing the injustices and blatant racism throughout the city/county. ArchCity Defenders was the only organization I knew that directly worked with people in the St. Louis area to confront these oppressive systems. This summer, I have learned how inaccessible the law itself is to the average person. Poor, black and brown people are left unrepresented with little knowledge of a field that is impossible to access. I’ve been able to witness how the law is not here to help people, it is there to harm them.

5. You’ll contribute to the self-determination of our clients

Jacob Mohrmann: I believe in ArchCity Defenders’ vision for a society liberated from systems of oppression where all people can live freely and thrive. I wanted to do my part by helping address the needs of those targeted and punished by our legal system and by fighting to change the system that produces those needs. I have learned a lot about how litigation and legal work happen in actual practice, and have learned many new approaches to cases, even just within the housing sphere. One example is interesting legal options like equitable remedies that are not often discussed in law school. I’ve loved speaking with clients and working in an office with so many supportive colleagues with shared values and a shared vision.

Sonal Churiwal: I came to ACD wanting to learn more about how we can operate as individuals within the legal system to support people with different backgrounds. It’s been astonishing watching housing court and observing how landlords’ counsel interacts with tenants. That really emphasized the importance of ACD’s work and providing tenants with representation. It was really amazing to see the compassion ACD attorneys show when meeting with clients, going out of their way to meet their needs even if that means meeting with them after hours or at the client’s house. 

ArchCity Defenders provides academic calendar as well as summer internship and externship opportunities for law students, social work practicum students, paralegal students, communications and digital media students, graphic design students, graduate students, undergraduates, and more.