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Fanisleidy Martin-Rodriguez

Travis County Public Defender’s Office

Fanisleidy Martin-Rodriguez

What was the most surprising thing you learned at your job? 

Many people, like myself, thought the public defender’s office was a group of attorneys that never cease to work and are always high-strung due to soaring stress levels. I was surprised to find that it is not like that at all! Although the attorneys do have a high case volume, it is managed throughout the office by everyone. Mental health is seen as a priority and work-life balance is beautifully respected at the TCPDO. I wasn’t just sitting in an office all day; I was shadowing different attorneys and investigators and was able to see the complete journey of a case from intake to close. I was especially surprised when interns were brought into case meetings with higher-ups and allowed to voice our own opinions and thoughts on the evidence and facts of the case. 

What do/did you like most about your job? 

Although TCPDO is a relatively new office and I was part of their very first summer internship program, the attorneys did an excellent job of training the interns. At TCPDO not only do you put in work that is used in various legal proceedings, but you are given a voice and brought into conversations that many interns never get a chance to sit in on. The work-life balance at TCPDO is highly respected and the holistic model of putting the client in the center of so many useful resources is an amazing process to observe. Although the criminal process is nowhere near perfect, it is truly getting better with the TCPDO’s holistic practice. 

How do you think this experience has helped you in your career path? 

I already had experience in other sectors of law and wanted to take the opportunity to explore if criminal law is the right fit for my professional career. The TCPDO has not only given me the chance to explore that option but has given me all the tools I need to excel during my summer internship. They take the time to check in with all the interns about work product, they have trainings to teach the interns about a different topic in criminal law throughout the summer, and the attorneys have been a joy to work with. Needless to say, I have been able to go beyond the casebook teachings from criminal law this past spring and have had first-hand experiences of the criminal process. This opportunity brought my understanding of criminal law full circle.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at this job? 

The holistic model at TCPDO is such a valuable tool to learn. Instead of putting the attorney in the center and having the attorney work for what is considered the best outcome; the client is in the center and is surrounded by people working for the client’s individual needs. The attorney gives the client a voice, the social worker finds resources to uplift the client, the paralegal connects the client to different social services or government assistance, the private investigators assist the attorneys to find further evidence that may help the client, the TCPDO also includes immigration and family law attorneys to aid clients coming out of the criminal proceedings into a smooth transition with other aspects of their life. At TCPDO a client is not just a criminal case number, a client is a human being with needs and TCPDO finds a way to answer those needs. I truly appreciated being a part of this revolutionary process!