An Intern’s Experience: Jessica Colburn’s Reflection of Her Time in PIAC

Below is Jessica Colburn’s own words, reflecting on her time as an intern for PIAC, written for her school.  We wanted to share her kind words with all of you.  We’re sad to see her go, but we certain she’ll be doing great things in the future.

I moved to California in 2016, when I decided it was time to finally act on my passion for advocacy. A few short weeks after California Western School of Law accepted me, I made the fifteen-hundred-mile trek from Oklahoma to the west coast. I did not know a single person, and I had no idea what was in store in for me in law school. I just knew I wanted to be an advocate for the environment.

The first couple of semesters flew by, and it was time to consider an internship. Several of my new friends went to work at the District Attorney’s office, or at the Public Defender’s. Both are invaluable experiences, but I knew they were not for me. I visited our CPDO several times, and they helped me find Public Interest Advocacy Collaborative.

PIAC is a group of attorneys from various practice areas, of different ages, from different walks of life, and different parts of the country. The group focuses on helping fellow attorneys who advocate for social justice and public interest causes. This is done through routine weekly meetings, more casual happy hour gatherings, and even through MCLE’s.

As an intern with PIAC, I learned so much. I got to work on my research skills by writing posts for The PIAC Blog. The topics I covered ranged from Mayor Faulconer’s State of the City Address to the Women’s March to the history of the Second Amendment. After all the work in Legal Skills, it was a welcome change to at last write in a form besides IRAC. The critique I received from practicing attorneys was incredibly helpful. With their guidance I learned to be economical, to keep my audience in mind when I write, and to check my bias when necessary.

Like all internships, this one is about the connections. I want to be an environmental attorney, and it can be tough to come by such opportunities here in San Diego. Social justice and public interest issues often intersect with environmental concerns, however, and many public interest attorneys handle environmental concerns. Through PIAC, I met an attorney at the Superior Court who has been a great help with CEQA, and I even connected with an environmental super lawyer.

My favorite part of this internship is the exposure to new communities and people. As a transplant to San Diego who spent most of her time either sleeping or in the library, I did not get to explore the city much at first. PIAC makes it a point to hold meetings in communities that need representation. I got to explore neighborhoods that I might not have otherwise found. I am so grateful that PIAC allowed me to explore this city and discover new businesses and neighborhoods.  San Diego now feels like home, thanks in no small part to this internship.