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The pursuit of justice

Erin Gallagher’21 was not initially thrilled about her Duffy internship placement at the Rock County Public Defender’s Office, but the placement led to a new career path.

Senior Erin Gallagher’21 was not initially thrilled about her Duffy internship placement at the Rock County Public Defender’s Office.

She was set on a social work placement; as a sociology major, she was always drawn to social work, and working at a public defender’s office was not what she had in mind.

“I really didn’t think public defenders were good people, but then I got there, and I saw they are trying to keep people from being overly punished,” says Erin.

Since working at the office, she has written pre-sentencing investigation reports— literature that will help sway attorneys to see a complete picture of the client to determine sentencing. As it turns out, the internship changed her entire career trajectory.

“The first month I was at the internship, I was talking to my supervisor, and she asked, ‘Have you ever thought about being a lawyer?’ It kind of put the seed in my brain,” says Erin.

Even still, Erin wasn’t sold on the idea. She was passionate about serving the veteran population and after being exposed to the incarcerated population–seeing clients who had never been to therapy, never had access to any mental health care, she wanted to help them as well.

“Where do you want to make a change, and what do you need to make change?” asked Professor of Sociology Charles Westerberg during a conversation.

The answer was simple for Erin. She wanted to support veterans and incarcerated populations, but she needed power to do it, something that a law degree could provide her.

“That was the turning point,” she said. “The real push for me getting into law was being able to connect with the clients. Their stories align with a lack of humanity that the system has shown them…this has got to change.”

While Erin hasn’t decided where she’ll pursue her advanced dual degree of master’s of social work and law, she knows she’ll be working hard to make change.

Whitney Helm
July 07, 2021

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