Emma Ruth Burns ’21: Pennsylvania Innocence Project

Name: Emma Ruth Burns
Class Year: 2021
Major: History
Hometown: Provo, Utah

Internship Organization: Pennsylvania Innocence Project
Job Title: Legal Intern
Location: Philadelphia

What’s happening at your internship?

This summer I have an internship with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. The Innocence Project is a nonprofit law firm that works to get those who have been wrongfully convicted exonerated. Usually these people are convicted of major crimes and have been in jail for around 15 or 20 years already, and the cases often take from five to 10 years from the time the Innocence Project first receives their petition to when they are fully exonerated.

I work as an assistant to the office manager and attorneys, filing files and stamping stamps, etc. Usually this only takes a couple minutes out of my day, though, and me and the other undergraduate interns switch off days. The rest of the time I spend either at the CJC retrieving and scanning court documents, in the office reading court transcripts to help one of the law school interns with her case, or working on special projects for our paralegal, Michelle.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship for a number of reasons. First off, I’ve been deciding whether or not I want to to to law school when I’m finished at Bryn Mawr and wanted to get a taste of what it’s like to work in a law office. I chose the Innocence Project because I truly respect the work that they do, I wanted to stay in the city this summer, and I liked the structure of their intern program.

What is most rewarding about your internship?

The Innocence Project’s work is inherently rewarding. My favorite part of this internship is when exonerees come into the office. It is fascinating to hear their stories and really hits home that the work that we do is for individuals with lives and families. It is inspiring to see what they are doing now, many of them with skills and experience they gained while incarcerated.

Was this internship what you expected it to be?

Last summer I worked as a research assistant, and while I loved the work and thought it was really interesting, I didn’t like that it was largely on my own. My internship at the Innocence Project is very social, which I didn’t expect. There are a number of other interns and there are always things going on downtown after we get out. It’s been an unexpected joy having coworkers who are so much fun!