I am now in the fifth week of my 10 weeks at Zhicheng Public Interest Lawyers in Beijing. A recent series of juvenile crimes in China has brought national attention to the country’s lack of a juvenile criminal system, so the director of ZPIL asked if any of the interns were interested in undertaking a research project comparing juvenile criminal systems. I jumped on the opportunity and have now been working on that project for over three weeks. I am lucky to be directly supervised by an attorney who works on children’s issues with advice and input from the director of the center. It is a highly relevant and hot topic, so I am very glad to be able to offer something to the dialogue.
In addition to my summer-long research project, I am also doing mini-research projects and casework. My office consists of three attorneys and me, so I get a great deal of overflow and translation work. The attorneys practice in three different areas of law, criminal, children’s rights, and NGO assistance, which means that I am getting a taste of everything. I have developed a survey that will be used in a three-year study of child sexual assault in China, written briefs related to disability law and children’s rights, written memos on US civil procedure processes, and everything in between.
My biggest takeaway so far from the summer is to be flexible! My ability to adapt and eagerness in accepting assignment requests has allowed me to work with many different attorneys who focus on many different areas of pro bono legal aid. I have been able to work in many subject areas and have completed assignments that take many forms—and I am only halfway through the summer!
The work environment itself also necessitates flexibility. The power shuts off at least twice a day, the internet crashes at least once an hour, and I never know when my VPN is going to work so access to typical legal research sites is often limited. But, these challenges have forced me to move outside my comfort zone, and I am confident that if I can produce good research work here, I can do it anywhere.