Many law students gain a plethora of theoretical knowledge, but only a few have the opportunity to work on real cases.
Desiree Mitchell, a third-year student in Northeastern University’s School of Law, is one of the few, having already represented clients in both civil and criminal cases. Her casework, she said, has prompted tangible change.
“In the classroom you’re given a hypothetical situation where it might be really easy to figure out all the facts,” Mitchell explained. “But it’s never really a textbook case.”
Mitchell’s body of work prompted the American Association for Justice’s Women for Justice Education Fund to award the budding lawyer the Mike Eidson Scholarship. Named in honor of a past AAJ president, the $5000 award recognizes female law students who promote justice “for the injured, the accused, and those whose rights are jeopardized.”
Mitchell and a student from Rutgers School of Law received the award during the organization’s annual convention, which took place last week in Chicago.
In her time at Northeastern, Mitchell has fought for coal miners in Appalachia; defended those accused of criminal offenses in Boston; and helped the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office prosecute child abuse cases, one of which she argued in court as the second-seat attorney.
Such experiences, she said, could never have been duplicated in the classroom.
“There’s definitely a lot of moving parts once you’re actually on a case,” Mitchell said. “You’re moving out of the classroom — out of the law office, even — and into the real world.”
Later this month, Mitchell will begin a co-op with the Massachusetts Teachers Association, where she will focus on education policy for the state’s public teachers’ union.
She said she enrolled at Northeastern based on its reputation as a leader in public interest law, which focuses on serving people in underserved or disadvantaged communities. After graduating next spring, Mitchell plans to pursue a career in criminal defense.
“It’s a field that’s a lot less dry than many other areas of the law,” she said. “You’re working in a new area, on new cases, every day.”